Freedom Industries is trucking wastewater containing Crude MCHM, the coal-cleaning chemical that contaminated the Kanawha Valley’s drinking water in January, to disposal sites in Ohio and North Carolina, where some of it is being injected into underground wells.
Kelley Gillenwater, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, said Freedom Industries, the company whose tanks leaked the chemical, has sent at least five tanker trucks of wastewater to four out-of-state facilities this week.
Three loads of wastewater from the Freedom Industries site on the Elk River have been sent to two landfill facilities in Ohio and one in North Carolina.
Those tankers were filled with rainwater and melted snow that had collected in trenches dug on the site to keep runoff from entering the river.
Two other tankers took wastewater from Poca Blending, Freedom’s sister company in Nitro, to an underground-injection control well site in Ohio.
These types of wells inject hazardous as well as non-hazardous wastes into deep rock formations.
The wastewater from Poca Blending was vacuumed from the Freedom site and the Elk River immediately after the Jan. 9 leak. It was then stored at the Nitro facility.
Tanker trucks usually can hold a maximum of about 7,000 gallons of liquid, which means the vast majority of wastewater still remains on the Freedom and Poca Blending sites.
Gillenwater said that, before this week’s tanker trucks went out, there was 700,000 gallons of wastewater at Freedom Industries and 60,000 gallons at Poca Blending.
Freedom had been mixing wastewater with sawdust and disposing of it at a landfill in Hurricane. However, the company stopped after the city filed a lawsuit to stop the practice.
Gillenwater described the transfers to Ohio and North Carolina as “trial runs.”
Freedom Industries has filed for bankruptcy and will cease to exist as a company once it tears down its tank farm and cleans up the site.
Gillenwater said the U.S. bankruptcy trustee would decide what to do with the rest of the wastewater based on “handling methods and the most cost effective alternative.”
Reach David Gutman at email@example.com or 304-348-5119.