Energy & Environment

West Virginia Department of Commerce

Original story posted Friday, Jan. 31 at 2:46 p.m.

Emergency units in Berkeley County are responding to a reported fire at Ecolab Inc. in Martinsburg.

Ecolab is located in the 900 block of Baker Road near the V.A. Medical Center. The company manufactures industrial strength chemicals, solvents and cleaners.

911 officials said they received reports of an outside tank on fire. Nine equipment units were on scene as of 2:30 p.m. on Friday and were reporting no active fire, but a Hazmat team is checking for any possible leaks as a result.

Ashton Marra makes her third appearance on PBS NewsHour reporting on the Elk River chemical spill, discussing the discovery of formaldehyde in a Charleston restaurant as well as the public's feelings on their level of trust in the water. Ashton also discusses legislation moving through the Capitol dealing with the issue.

West Virginia Needs More Solar Jobs, Report Says

Jan 31, 2014
West Virginia University

A new report by two independent organizations says West Virginia is lagging behind in bolstering solar energy programs and providing solar energy jobs.

The report points out surrounding states are benefiting from past investments into this renewable energy technology.

Two groups that support sustainable economic development, Downstream Strategies and The Mountain Institute, teamed up to compare West Virginia’s solar energy job growth to surrounding states.

State officials in West Virginia say that in most areas, they can no longer detect any of the industrial chemical MCHM that spilled into the water supply recently. They say the water is safe for people to drink and use — including most pregnant women. But other public health specialists say they don't trust these assurances.

"I think there's no way to know what the safe levels of the chemicals are at this point," says Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the state's largest public health department. He's in charge of protecting 250,000 people whose water was affected by the spill.

Foo Conner / Flickr

The water company involved in West Virginia's chemical spill is providing 20 more tractor-trailer loads of bottled water for the nine counties affected.
 
     Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin requested Thursday that West Virginia American Water offer more bottled water, since the state has spent nearly $890,000 on more than 17.5 million bottles of water.
 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Marshall University Professor and Vice-Chair of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board Dr. Scott Simonton presented testimony to the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources Wednesday.

In his testimony, Dr. Simonton said he had found formaldehyde in the water supply of the Charleston restaurant Vandalia Grille. He also said he "can guarantee" people are breathing in the chemical while showering.

Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia House of Delegates is paving a long legislative road for new regulations on above-ground storage tanks.
 
     But Speaker Tim Miley says his chamber isn't stalling the chemical spill-inspired bill.
 
     Miley says giving the bill three committee stops doesn't mean it won't go anywhere. Often, assigning a bill many committees shows leadership isn't seriously considering it.
 
     Miley says Senate Bill 373 could take longer in the House. A public hearing will take place in the House chamber Monday.
 

State utility regulators have ordered West Virginia American Water to continue providing quarterly reports on the quality of its service.
 
     The Public Service Commission's order says the information will allow it to monitor whether the company's response to a Jan. 9 chemical spill has any lasting impact on its distribution infrastructure in the Kanawha Valley.
 

Marc Glass is a principal researcher in charge of evaluation and remediation of environmental contamination in soil and water for the environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies. He’s been testing water samples for private residents affected by the Elk River chemical spill. While his results haven’t turned up any traces of formaldehyde, it is something they’ve been testing for.

How long did the Freedom tank leak?

Foo Conner / Flickr

Officials from the Bureau for Public Health and West Virginia American Water released separate statements regarding Dr. Scott Simonton's testimony Wednesday to Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources, calling his remarks on the discovery of formaldehyde in the water of a Charleston restaurant "unfounded", "misleading", and "irresponsible."

Twitter / @kenwardjr

Fresh Air recently interviewed Charleston Gazette investigative reporter Ken Ward about the Freedom Industries chemical spill. Here are the highlights:

On how the chemical leak was discovered

Some people who live in that part of town called in both to the metro 911 — the county emergency operation center — and to the state Department of Environmental Protection complaints of an odor, that they smelled some sort of a strong licorice odor in the air.

On Jan. 9, people in and around Charleston, W.Va., began showing up at hospitals: They had nausea, eye infections and some were vomiting. It was later discovered that around 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals had leaked into the Elk River, just upstream from a water treatment plant that serves 300,000 people. Citizens were told not to drink or bathe in the water, and while some people are now using water from their taps, many still don't trust it or the information coming from public officials.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

By now, you’ve probably heard of crude MCHM, the chemical that spilled into the Elk River in early January contaminating the drinking water of 300 thousand West Virginians.

And may be you’ve even heard of PPH, the second chemical contained in the leaky tank at the Freedom Industries site.

But almost three weeks after the leak, how much do we really know about these chemicals?

We'll have our own story up soon but, in the meantime, we wanted to provide you this piece that just went up from The Charleston Gazette.

http://www.coalheritage.org/

Since the recent chemical spill in Charleston, the issue of clean water in West Virginia is a topic that many Southern West Virginians are discussing.  The Coal Heritage Lecture Series, an annual program presented by Concord University’s Beckley Center and the Coal Heritage Highway Authority, kicks off the 2014 programs with a look at this critical issue. 

Fracking, Fluid
Baker Hughes

The natural gas boom continues to sound in what have become the northern gas fields of West Virginia. State lawmakers are working on ways to take maximum advantage of the economic benefits that are coming with it. The other byproduct authorities are grappling with is an excess of waste products, which, without proper disposal, can threaten public health.

Ashton Marra

Weeks of questioning, debates and discussions culminated in the Senate Tuesday with a vote on the most watched bill of the session. Senate Bill 373 creates new regulations for above ground storage tanks and more stringent protections of the state’s water.

The bill sets forth provisions for storage site owners and operators, the Department of Environmental Protection and public water distribution systems.

Site Owners:

A European method for converting garbage to fuel is coming to West Virginia. The Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority has signed an agreement to lease part of its property to the Italian company Entsorga. The company will build a $19 million facility there.

The mixed waste resource recovery facility will sit on 12 acres next to the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority’s Grapevine Rd. recycling center.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Freedom Industries has once again revised their estimate of the amount of materials involved in the January 9 chemical spill into the Elk River.

In a news release issued Monday afternoon, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Freedom now estimates the MCHM/PPH blend involved in the spill at 10,000 gallons. That number is up from earlier estimates of 7,500 gallons, which was also increased from the earliest estimates of 2,000-5,000 gallons when the spill was first discovered.

Dunkard Creek Restoring Itself Faster Than Expected

Jan 27, 2014
Ben Adducchio / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A fisheries biologist with the Division of Natural Resources, says the water body Dunkard Creek is doing an excellent job of restoring itself with aquatic life. This is the site of a massive fish kill back in 2009.

C. W. Sigman

  West Virginia's governor has ordered the company at the center of a chemical spill that tainted the water supply for the state capital to begin the process of removing all above-ground storage tanks from the Charleston operation.

A statement released Saturday by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office says Freedom Industries must start the dismantling process by March 15.

The Jan. 9 spill at Freedom Industries contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians.

The order to dismantle and properly dispose of the tanks also includes associated piping and machinery. The facility currently has 17 tanks.

Pennsylvania is comparing regulations for above ground storage tanks after the spill in West Virginia.

While some residents in a Kentucky community are using unique strategies to oppose a strip mine, others are looking forward to the mine opening.

One school in West Virginia is working to meet the needs of all deaf and blind students.

Ashton Marra

The Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources held its third hearing related to the Kanawha Valley chemical leak Friday, receiving testimony for the first time from those conducting the on-site investigation.

Chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board Rafael Moure-Eraso explained his team of four investigators is in the preliminary phases in an investigation that could take up to a year to complete.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

An environmental official says the company in the West Virginia water crisis immediately knew a second chemical leaked from its plant into the river, telling its workers in an email.
 
  

However, Freedom Industries did not let state government officials know about the second chemical, which was discovered in later testing. State environmental department official Mike Dorsey says most company employees also did not skim far enough to see the information.
 

appalshop.org

With the January 9 chemical leak from Freedom Industries leading to the water supply being compromised for 300,000 residents who rely on West Virginia American Water, the ripple effects are sure to impact our state, our region, and possibly even the entire nation on environmental, political, and cultural levels. Yet, concerns over the safety of the environment and health of the local population are nothing new around the Kanawha Valley.

Ashton Marra

National Guard teams from West Virginia and neighboring states are carrying out a massive water testing campaign following the chemical spill that polluted the water supply for 300,000 people.
 
     Nearly 40 civil support team members from the Virginia and West Virginia National Guard were taking samples this week to test for contaminants in water supplied by West Virginia American Water.
 

Former coal miner Joe Stanley says he lost his job after a conflict with management, when he, as union president, demanded to know more about the chemicals that were being used in the mine. "I watched the coal industry poison our water for years. Now they're telling us not to drink the water? We've been dumping this stuff into unlined ponds and into old mines for years," he says. One of those chemicals, Stanley says, was MCHM.

Foo Conner / Flickr

The Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division wants the agency to continue requiring West Virginia American Water to submit quarterly reports on service quality.
 
A 2011 order issued by the PSC requires the company to submit the reports through the fourth quarter of 2013. The Consumer Advocate Division asked the PSC on Wednesday to continue the requirement until further notice.
 

A new report says West Virginians paid 1.2 percent more for utilities in 2013 than in the previous year, primarily because of increases in natural gas and water rates.  
 
     The report released Wednesday by the Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division says the average West Virginia utility customer paid $280.62 a month for gas, electricity, water and telephone service last year. In 2012, the average monthly cost was $277.22.  
 

Office of the Governor

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he was unaware he received campaign checks from top executives at the company at the center of West Virginia's chemical spill.
 
     The Democrat said he found about donations from two Freedom Industries executives from news articles Wednesday morning.
 

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