Energy & Environment

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.
 

Sen. Jay Rockefeller
Politico

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has written to West Virginia American Water for a second time since the chemical leak at Freedom Industries January 9.

In a letter sent this morning he asked West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre to respond by Friday, Jan. 24.

Rockefeller states he’s deeply concerned that after the “do not use” ban was lifted for people living in Buffalo, Fraziers Bottom and Pliny, further tests revealed levels of Crude MCHM higher than 1ppm.

Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

The President of Downstream Strategies is in Charleston presenting his organization’s report on the Elk River chemical spill to lawmakers. Meanwhile, lawmakers are debating a proposal from Gov. Tomblin. Hansen is concerned about some aspects of the bill.

West Virginia Legislature

A West Virginia Senate leader thinks the governor's proposal to prevent chemical spills caters to industry interests.
 

Senate Majority Leader John Unger says Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's bill doesn't do enough to register and inspect above-ground storage tanks.
 
     Tomblin's measure responds to Freedom Industries' Jan. 9 spill, which contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people.
 

C. W. Sigman

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a new order to Freedom Industries Wednesday, less than a day after it was discovered another chemical--known as PPH--was included in the tank that leaked at the Freedom site.

According to the order, Freedom has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to provide the West Virginia DEP on-site inspector with information that fully describes the composition of materials released into the Elk River almost two weeks ago.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Attorneys for the company behind West Virginia's chemical spill said in federal bankruptcy court Tuesday that they've secured a deal for up to $4 million in credit to continue operations.

Mark Freelander, an attorney for Freedom, released key details. He said the arrangement reached after an hours-long court hearing would allow Freedom Industries to continue paying its employees and top vendors and also provide funds to cover for environmental cleanup from a Jan. 9 chemical spill in the Elk River.

As Ken Ward of The Charleston Gazette reports, officials with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board say a product known as "PPH" was included in the the January 9 spill.

Morgantown Learning Lessons from Elk River Spill

Jan 21, 2014
Ashton Marra

The City of Morgantown’s water utility says it’s using the unfortunate chemical spill in Charleston as a learning opportunity. It is taking action to prevent problems should a similar situation happen in Morgantown. Of course, if the Governor has his way, the changes may not be optional.

Graphic Detailing the Elk River zone of critical concern, from downstream strategies new report.
Downstream Strategies

Downstream Strategies President Evan Hansen has worked on a report called "The Freedom Industries Spill: Lessons Learned and Needed Reforms." Hansen says new regulations on storage facilities, like the one involved in the Elk River spill, are only a first step towards prevention.

Hansen also suggests:

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 

 

The company blamed for a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water has filed for bankruptcy.

Freedom Industries Inc. filed for bankruptcy Friday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.

Company president Gary Southern signed the paperwork.

 The “do not use” order has been lifted for the last customer area in West Virginia American Water’s Kanawha Valley district. Customers in the Clendenin area may begin flushing according to the established guidelines. Although the online map currently reflects that all areas have  turned blue, customers should  keep in mind that precautionary boil water advisories are in place for several smaller groups of customers throughout the district after water storage tanks were depleted following excessive flushing activities.

The company that runs the facility that caused the chemical leak into the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., has a new owner.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The company whose spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians has been cited for violations at a second facility where it's storing chemicals.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise says inspectors found five violations Monday at a Nitro site, known as Poca Blending, LLC, where Freedom Industries moved its coal-cleaning chemicals after Thursday's spill.

“If it’s good enough to wash coal, it’s good enough to wash me.” That’s a tweet that supposedly went out from the West Virginia Coal Association in response to the Elk River chemical spill. No such remark exists on the association's feed today, but the sentiment sparked reactions from many, including one southern W.Va. health campaign. In the aftermath of the MCHM spill, they’re bringing up questions about certain coal mining practices.

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