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CSB Says Freedom industries Spill Was Preventable; Says Lack Of Inspections To Blame

Reported by: Send eMail Bob Aaron, Heath Harrison, Jeff Morris
Reported: Jul. 16, 2014 2:11 PM EDT
Updated: Jul. 16, 2014 6:47 PM EDT
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Chemical Spill Investigation
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Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said Wednesday that it looks like water seeping from holes in the roof of a tank loaded with crude MCHM caused the Freedom Industries spill which contaminated the drinking water supply for 300,000 West Virginians in January.

Officials for the agency said, as they released their preliminary findings on the spill, it now looks like at least one other tank leaked.

They are knocking down the tanks at freedom - tanks that CSB investigators said were never properly inspected. Now, federal investigators say holes in a storage tank floor likely allowed chemicals to seep out and contaminate the drinking water supply. Holes in the tank roof allowed the water to leak in, producing corrosion that then created the holes in the floor. The CSB found holes in the floor of the tank that held the spilled chemical, and they suspect the adjacent tank and perhaps others had holes in them

Pieces of the tank are undergoing metallurgical examination. The CSB said they couldn't find records of tank inspections before the January spill. It is unclear how often or rigorously, or even if, inspections occurred. The CSB chairman said self-policing does not work.

The spill spurred a don-not-use tap water order for 300,000 people for several days. The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. Its chairman called the spill a disaster of the highest magnitude that was preventable.

In a separate case, CSB investigators also found a New Cumberland plant lacked a safety system to collect combustible dust when a 2010 explosion killed three people.

The CSB said there have been 50 serious and sometimes deadly dust explosions since OSHA was first urged to impose dust rules.

The dust rules still have not been imposed.




The head of the Chemical Safety and Hazard and Investigation Board said Wednesday that a lack of inspections and hazard reviews is the root cause of the Jan. 9 spill that contaminated the water supply in nine counties.

CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso's comments came at a public meeting in Charleston. The board said it could find no record of inspections at Freedom Industries’ chemical tanks at the scene of where the massive chemical spill occurred.

The CSB said the tanks had signs of pitting and metallurgical damage and that growing corrosion went unnoticed in tank 396 and leaked 10,000 gallons of MCHM. They found a similar hole in the floor of another Freedom Industries tank that held the spilled chemical.

Meanwhile, the board said the leak was caused by water seeping through holes in the tank roof.

Also at the public meeting, the board heard findings and recommendations from the CSB's investigation team into the Dec. 9, 2010, explosion and fire that occurred at AL Solutions located in New Cumberland, W.Va. An explosion ripped through the New Cumberland AL Solutions titanium plant, fatally injuring three workers. The workers were processing titanium powder, which is highly combustible, at the time of the explosion.



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