A Not Entirely Comprehensive Compendium of Quotes and Articles From the Chemical Spill
Jan. 9 John Raby “CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — At least 100,000 customers in nine West Virginia counties were told not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes using their tap water because of a chemical spill into the Elk River in Charleston, with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declaring a state of emergency Thursday for all those areas.
The chemical, a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries, overran a containment area and went into the river earlier Thursday. The amount that spilled wasn’t immediately known, but West Virginia American Water has a treatment plant nearby and it is the company’s customers who are affected.
“The water has been contaminated,” said Tomblin, who didn’t know how long the emergency declaration would last.
“I don’t know if the water is not safe,” said water company president Jeff McIntyre.
“It was chaos, that’s what it was,” cashier Danny Cardwell said.
“Don’t make baby formula,” McIntyre said. “Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t shower. Toilet flushing only.” (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/wva-gov-declares-emergency-after-chem-spill)
It’s Been an Extremely Long Day
Jan 11 Greg Botelho and Tom Watkins, CNN, “President Gary Southern tried several times to walk away from a press conference Friday evening, saying “it has been an extremely long day,” only to be called back by insistent reporters — including one who noted how long a day it has been for all the West Virginians now without drinkable water or a full explanation as to why.
“This incident is extremely unfortunate and unanticipated,” Southern said.”… This has been a very, very taxing process.” (http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/09/us/west-virginia-contaminated-water/)
Jan. 11 “Since the inch-wide holes in the retaining wall were big enough to see, there is a chance Freedom Industries might have known that their 70 to 80-year-old tanks were in need of replacement or repair. It is therefore possible that the company did not incur the expense of fixing them because they didn’t have to.
If ever there were a classic case of deregulation disaster, this is it.” -itobin53 (http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/16321999-west-virginia-chemical-spill-company-was-exempt-from-epa-inspections)
To Hell With…
Jan. 12 Eric Waggoner, Phd.: “To hell with every single screwjob elected official and politico under whose watch it all went on, who helped write those lax regulations and then turned away when even those weren’t followed. To hell with you all, who were supposed to be stewards of the public interest, and who sold us out for money, for political power. To hell with every one of you who decided that making life convenient for business meant making life dangerous for us. To hell with you for making us the eggs you had to break in order to make breakfast.” (http://culturalslagheap.wordpress.com/)
Jan. 12 Coral Davenport and Ashley Southallian , NY Times: “West Virginia has a pattern of resisting federal oversight and what they consider E.P.A. interference, and that really puts workers and the population at risk,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a lecturer in environmental health at George Washington University.
But Mr. Huffman disputed that accusation, noting that West Virginia’s economy is more heavily dependent than other states on the coal and chemical industries. “Based upon the types of industrial activity, how does it compare to the rest of the country? It’s not in context.” Although he added, “That’s no excuse for any incident where someone gets hurt.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/us/critics-say-chemical-spill-highlights-lax-west-virginia-regulations.html?_r=0)
Gov. Tomblin Makes a Good Statement
Jan. 13 Alexandra Field. Meridith Edwards and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN: “Absolutely,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told CNN. “We need to do what we can to see that this kind of incident never happens again. There’s no excuse for it.” (http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/13/us/west-virigina-chemical-contamination/)
Sen. Manchin Takes a Side…says We are Willing to Do the Heavy Lifting
Jan 18 Trip Gaberial, Michael Wines and Coral Davenport Reporting, NY Times: “You feel like everyone’s turned against you,” he said. He assured his audience that he would continue to fight back against proposed new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on coal, quoting the state motto in Latin: “Montani semper liberi” — “Mountaineers are always free.”
In an interview the next day, he expounded on the theme. “Coal and chemicals inevitably bring risk — but that doesn’t mean they should be shut down,” Mr. Manchin said. “Cicero says, ‘To err is human.’ But you’re going to stop living because you’re afraid of making a mistake?”
“I don’t know where else you want the chemicals to be produced,” he said. “Another country? People say, ‘Not in my backyard.’ But in West Virginia, we’re willing to do the heavy lifting.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/us/chemical-spill-muddies-picture-in-a-state-wary-of-regulations.html)
Freedom Industries Files for Bankruptcy…You Try to Follow It
Jan. 18 Kate White and Dave Gutman, Charleston Gazette (CG): “Freedom Industries, the company that fouled thousands of West Virginians’ water with a chemical leak into the Elk River last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday.
Freedom owes $3.6 million to its top 20 unsecured creditors, according to bankruptcy documents. The company also owes more than $2.4 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and the IRS has placed at least three liens on Freedom’s property, demanding payment.
About an hour after its bankruptcy filing, Freedom filed an emergency motion for what’s called “debtor-in-possession,” or DIP, financing, which would allow it to secure up to a $5 million loan to continue to function in some capacity. The loan would, according to the filing, “provide additional liquidity to [Freedom] in order to allow it to continue as a going concern.”
The lender in a debtor-in-possession case generally gets first priority when it comes time for the debtor, in this case Freedom, to pay money back.
“Under the bankruptcy code, when there is DIP financing from a DIP lender, 99 percent of the time, they get priority over all the other creditors,” said Bob Simons, a prominent bankruptcy lawyer with the Pittsburgh firm Reed Smith. “You’re putting your money in at risk, and the debtor is not going to have a lot of options, so the bankruptcy clerk permits the DIP lender to get priority over all the other lenders.”
Freedom’s proposed lender is a company called WV Funding LLC. That company does not exist in West Virginia, according to business records on file with the West Virginia secretary of state. Pennsylvania’s secretary of state also has no records online for it.
The DIP agreement has places to sign for Freedom Industries and for WV Funding “by Mountaineer Funding LLC.”
Mountaineer Funding was incorporated with the West Virginia secretary of state on Friday. Its one listed member is J. Clifford Forrest, Freedom Industries’ owner.” (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201401170030)
“It’s Your Decision… Gov. Tomblin Makes a Goofy Statement
Jan. 20 Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (CG Ken ward Jr.)): “It’s your decision,” the governor told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking with this water, then use bottled water.” (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/politics/201401200041)
Regulated, Not Regulated, Underregulated???
Jan. 25 Ken Ward Jr. Reporting in the CG: When asked how he could call the Freedom Industries tank farm — which held a water-pollution permit approved by the DEP — “unregulated,” the governor had agency Secretary Randy Huffman explain. Huffman carefully clarified what the governor had said.
“Unregulated is probably not the right word,” Huffman said. “It was under-regulated.”
Policymakers are beginning to respond to the leak of the chemical Crude MCHM into the Elk River, just upstream from the West Virginia American Water regional intake.
Some confusion continues, though, about exactly what authority the DEP had over the facility. A front-page New York Times story, for example, paraphrased Huffman as saying that, “because the facility stored chemicals, but did not produce them, his department had no responsibility for regulating it.”
However, in several interviews with the Sunday Gazette-Mail, Huffman and other DEP officials have made it clear — as Huffman did in his appearance with the governor — that Freedom Industries was absolutely not unregulated.” (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201401250131)
Charleston Business Lose at Least $1 Million in Revenue
Jan. 29 Rachel Reporting (CG): “Although the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau has heard from only 12 businesses so far regarding financial losses from the Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply, CVB President Alisa Bailey said they’re already totaling $1 million.” (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201401290176)
Not the Sort of People to Put in Charge of Chemical Storage
Jan. 30 Paul M. Barrett, Bloomburg Business Week: “These people who were running Freedom Industries weren’t the sort you’d put in charge of something like chemical storage that could affect the whole community,” Danny Jones, Charleston’s current mayor, says. “Who are these guys, anyway?”
Gov. Tomblin Makes a Good Statement
Jan. 30 Ashley Alman, Huffington Post: Quoting Gov. Tomblin- “Immediately following West Virginia American Water’s DO NOT USE order on January 9, I began working with the West Virginia National Guard and Office of Emergency Services to provide water and supplies to impacted citizens,” Tomblin said. “While the DO NOT USE order has been lifted, we continue to receive calls from constituents and organizations requesting water be made available to their communities. To address this need, I have asked West Virginia American Water Company to make available potable and bottled water to West Virginians in the affected areas.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/30/earl-ray-tomblin-water_n_4698536.html)
Unknown Effects of Chemical
Jan. 30 Ken Ward Jr. Reporting in the Charleston Gazette (CG): “Researchers from three universities have received emergency funding for studies of the long-term impacts of the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical leak, including an examination of whether the “flushing” advised by state officials and the water company adequately cleared toxic chemicals from home plumbing systems.
“The grant announcements come as West Virginia’s government continued to insist that the water is safe, and harshly criticized at least one local scientist who has raised questions about the way the crisis is being handled.
“The main challenge for authorities managing the spill has been how little researchers know about the chemical and how it interacts with other substances,” said William Cooper, director of the NSF’s Chemicals, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems division.
“Starting Jan. 13, water company officials and the state government began a weeklong process of lifting broad “do not use” orders for sections of the nine-county area impacted by the MCHM leak. After the order was lifted, residents were advised to run their hot water for 15 minutes, their cold water for 5 minutes, and their outside faucets for 5 minutes, to flush the chemical from their homes.
“State officials, in announcing their guidance for flushing, rejected an earlier recommendation from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that residents be advised to flush their plumbing systems until the chemical odor is gone. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had said in internal documents that flushing the chemicals out of the system “may require a fairly prolonged time to complete,” perhaps two to three weeks.” (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201401300040?page=2)
Easy, Not Too Fast With All These New Regulations, Folks
Feb. 1 Ken Ward Jr. Reporting (CG): “House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, sent a Senate-passed storage tank bill to three House committees. Such a move, called “triple-referencing,” often is seen as a maneuver to kill a bill.
Miley said his intention isn’t to block the storage tank bill but to ensure a complete debate on it. He also said he wants to continue discussions about whether the DEP properly enforced existing regulations that apply to the site.
“My concern is that there may have been plenty of regulations on the books that could have prevented this from happening,” Miley said in an appearance last week on the statewide Talkline radio show. “We need to be sure that we’re doing what is already required to be done before we start adding additional regulations.”
“At the very least, if [the] DEP had inspected the site, their first question should have been to ask for the [storm-water pollution prevention plan] and [the groundwater protection plan], and they should have reviewed them at that time,” Hansen said. “But [the] DEP chose not to inspect the site and enforce this permit.” (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201402010083?page=2)
Feb. 4 What the CDC Has to Say About the Chemical