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Questionable Safety Conditions At Freedom Industries Alleged; Public Officials Speak Out

Reported: Jan. 11, 2014 6:42 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 12, 2014 3:01 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. - (Katy Brown) -- Safety at Freedom Industries is under fire.

"There was a failure here across the board by a lot of people," Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said.

Carper said the plant was "dangerous," something both the previous and current owners of Freedom Industries knew about.

Former contracted workers are speaking out as well.

One of them told Eyewitness News seven years ago, welders worked on the same tank that recently leaked 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM.

"It should have been demoed and a new tank put in place," the source said. "It was significantly rusted in [2008], and, to my knowledge, it was 4 to 6 inches of steel that was welded in the bottom of the tank."

It was a welding job he said could have led to the one-inch hole in the tank and the cause of Thursday's leak.

"I'd say with this last cold weather snap we got, that it had moisture in those weld seams and it busted loose," he said.

it was a theory Freedom Industries President Gary Southern hinted at in Friday's press conference, when he said, "There are a number of different theories. I mean quite frankly it's pointless to hypothesize as to how it happened. There are theories that maybe the cold change in temperature had something to do with it. We honestly don't know."

But the safety concerns don't stop there. Emergency officials provided photos of the containment wall showing exactly what the problem was.

"The containment wall clearly didn't work correctly," Carper said. "You can actually see where there were cracks in it, where the chemical came through it."

And Saturday, days after the spill, 300,000 people still remain under a "Do Not Use" water advisory. A timeline to when that will be lifted is still unknown and several questions are left unanswered.

"If you're going to run a plant like this," Carper said. "You've got to do it safely, and the consequences can be catastrophic."

Eyewitness News tried reaching out to Freedom Industries for their response on the alleged safety violations, but nobody returned calls.



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