The former site of the company that spilled chemicals into the Elk River in 2014, contaminating the water for about 300,000 West Virginians, is going up for auction.
On Dec. 13 at noon, anyone interested in purchasing the former Freedom Industries site can place a bid. A website listing describes the property for sale as a building, plus a “commercial property on 4.9 +/- acres on the Elk River.”
A certain bid amount must be met the day of the auction, said Travis Williamson, a spokesman for Joe R. Pyle Complete Auction and Realty Service, the company handling the auction. He wouldn’t say what the minimum amount is.
If no one bids or the bid doesn’t meet the minimum amount, the property will go either to a nonprofit group or the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Williamson said. Net proceeds of the sale of the property will go to the people or businesses who filed a claim worth more than $3,000 in the class-action lawsuit that stemmed from the 2014 water crisis.
The class-action lawsuit, which doesn’t directly involve Freedom Industries, said West Virginia American Water didn’t react properly to a spill of Crude MCHM from a Freedom storage tank into the Elk River, just upriver from the water company’s main intake in Charleston. The lawsuit also says Eastman Chemical, which manufactured Crude MCHM, didn’t do enough to warn Freedom Industries of the chemical’s danger.
Both companies blamed Freedom Industries, which admitted to criminal violations following the spill.
The spill, which happened on Jan. 9, 2014, happened just upriver from West Virginia-American Water’s main intake in Charleston, left about 300,000 West Virginians in nine counties unable to use their water for days.
The Freedom property is clear of all liens and interests, except for a land use covenant, U.S. District Judge Frank Volk wrote in an order Sept. 21 that allowed the property’s sale. The covenant, issued March 1, restricts a number of things from happening on the property, like drilling or using the property for anything that’s residential.
The covenant also bars any future owner from extracting groundwater for anything except groundwater monitoring; from constructing buildings without systems that would prevent exposure to vapors in soil and groundwater; and from constructing buildings in an “excavated slope area” without geotechnical evaluation of the impacts to the slope’s stability.
The covenant also requires the new owner to conduct an inspection of the property at least once a year and submit signed copies of the inspection to the DEP.
Freedom Industries Inc. entered into a voluntary remediation agreement with the DEP in March 2015, which helped speed up the process of cleaning up the site. The site’s final report came out in December 2017, when the state said the remediation standards had been met.
The DEP issued a certificate of completion for the site on March 20 of this year.
Williamson said he didn’t know who would ultimately bid on the property.
“It can really be anyone, we don’t qualify who it is,” Williamson said. “It’s an opportunity for someone trying to revitalize that part of Charleston through community venture. Who that might be, we’re not sure.”
Registration for the auction begins at 11 a.m. on Dec. 13 at 1015 Barlow Drive in Charleston. The auction starts at noon.