Work underway to deal with W.Va. spill of coal treatment chemical

A spill of a coal-related chemical on the Elk River occurred Jan. 9, just upstream of a water treatment plant for the city of Charleston, W.Va.

The spill, which occurred at a Freedom Industries storage facility, involved a 48,000 gallon tank of a chemical used to treat coal before it’s sent off to be burned at coal-fired power plants, the Sierra Club noted in a critical Jan. 10 statement about the spill. The chemical, called 4-methylcyclohexene methanol, may seriously impact the health and safety of local residents with symptoms including vomiting, skin blistering and burns in the throat, the club said.

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Director, and West Virginia resident, Mary Anne Hitt, said: “Coal mining communities are faced with the dangers of water pollution from coal mining and pollution every day. This spill pulls the curtain back on the coal industry’s widespread and risky use of dangerous chemicals, and is an important reminder that coal-related pollution poses a serious danger to nearby communities.”

Gary Southern, President of Freedom Industries, said in a Jan. 10 statement: “Since the discovery of the leak, safety for residents in Kanawha and surrounding counties has been Freedom Industries’ first priority. We have been working with local and federal regulatory, safety and environmental entities, including the [West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection], Coast Guard, Army Corp of Engineers and Homeland Security, and are following all necessary steps to fix the issue. Our team has been working around the clock since the discovery to contain the leak to prevent further contamination. At this point, Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released, as the first priority was safety, containment and cleanup.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.