Another MCHM chemical spill has occurred in West Virginia. This time, the chemical came from an unknown amount of coal slurry that leaked into a tributary of the Kanawha River on Tuesday, said the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The spill happened between midnight and 5:30am Monday, when a slurry line ruptured and the substance spilled into Fields Creek from Kanawha Eagle preparation plant near Winifrede. There are reportedly no public water intakes immediately downstream from the spill.
Crude MCHM is the same chemical that tainted the water supply of 300,000 residents across nine counties in West Virginia. On January9th, a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked some 7,500 gallons of the chemical into the Elk River in Charleston. MCHM can cause skin and eye irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. Little is known about its long-term side effects.
The spill affected thousands of residents as well as businesses, who were unable to operate without clean water. Restaurants and hotels had to close without clean water to prepare food or wash hands. Parker Waichman has filed class action lawsuits on behalf of businesses and is still offering free legal consultations for anyone affected by the spill.
Since the Elk River chemical spill, residents and experts have been concerned about the lax regulation for above-ground chemical storage facilities. At a recent congressional field hearing about the issue, an October 2013 review showed that conditions at the Freedom storage facility did not quite meet industry standards. Because MCHM wasn’t one of the chemicals listed under the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations. As a result, the tank that leaked was never inspected.
At a recent town meeting in Clay Center, many expressed distrust at whether or not the water is safe to drink. Dr. Rahul Gupta, a panelist at the meeting and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, pointed out that the residents are the first humans that MCHM is being tested on, since few studies have been conducted about its safety.