Freedom Industries, West Virginia chemical spill disaster

On January 9, 2014, an estimated 10,000 gallons of coal-processing compound spilled at the Freedom Industries in West Virginia creating an environmental disaster of epic proportion. It prompted several subsequent lawsuits, send the company into Federal bankruptcy, change the ownership of the company, prompted an environmental-crime investigation by the Department of Justice, a declaration of emergency by the President and arrival of the National Guard to monitor the situation.

Residents first reported licorice-like smell coming from the tank farm owned by Freedom Industries that resulted in bringing state inspectors onto the site. They found a leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) from a tank into the Elk River. MUHM is being identified by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration as “hazardous.” Information was provided to the local water company and they added additional filtration. Freedom Industries failed to take adequate measures and the authorities prohibited people using the water from the water company for drinking, cooking, and bathing. MCHM could cause skin irritation, nausea, and vomiting if swallowed or inhaled. More than 500 people in the affected area reported symptoms and 30 were admitted to the hospital. In mid-January, the Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.