The Freedom Industries chemical spill that poisoned tap water for some 300,000 residents in West Virginia might have been larger than previously reported. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection released an update on Monday after Freedom Industries said 10,000 gallons of industrial chemicals leaked into the Elk River from its containment units. The chemical storage and processing company had previously said 7,500 gallons had escaped.
The spill was first reported on January 9th, after people living near the Elk River noticed a strange liquorice odor coming from the water. Initially only one chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a foaming agent used to clean coal, was understood to have leaked from a storage tank. On January 22nd, it was reported that 300 gallons of a second chemical — PPH, a polyglycol that can irritate the eyes and skin — also found its way into the river. All estimates, including the revised figure of 10,000 gallons, have come from Freedom Industries. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month.
The estimated figure comes from Freedom Industries itself
The Department of Environmental Protection's press release reiterated that it was not known exactly how much material leaked into the river. WVDEP cabinet secretary Randy Huffman said "we are not making any judgment about its (estimate) accuracy," but that the department "felt it was important to provide to the public what the company has provided the WVDEP in writing." The DEP is still reviewing the calculation as part of its investigation, but Huffman said that the new calculation did not change any protocols or affect ongoing operations in containing the spill.