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Leaking West Virginia Tank Held Second Substance

by Cheryl Hogue , Jeff Johnson
January 27, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 4

The owner of a leaking storage tank that contaminated municipal water in Charleston, W.Va., in mid-January says the tank contained a low percentage of a second commercial substance. Last week, Freedom Industries told federal and state officials that the liquid that leaked contained glycol ethers in addition to crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM). Freedom said in a letter that it used PPH, a Dow Chemical glycol ether product, as an “extender” for crude MCHM, an Eastman Chemical product that Freedom describes as “available in limited, sporadic quantities.” Freedom said the leaking tank contained 88.5% crude MCHM, 7.3% PPH, and 4.2% water by weight. Health officials say the small amount of PPH and its relatively low toxicity fail to raise additional health concerns about the tainted water. In the wake of the leak, Eastman posted on its website the toxicity data it has on crude MCHM, and Freedom filed for bankruptcy protection so it can reorganize its business. On another front, West Virginia Sens. Joseph Manchin III (D) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D) joined with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to craft legislation that would toughen standards for above­ground chemical storage tanks and require state inspections of them. The bill is expected to be introduced when Congress returns this week.


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