January, 2021

This is a repeating event

202109JanAll DayFreedom Industries Toxic Release 2014Freedom Industries Charleston (US-WV) Origin: CSB Lessons:Asset integrity,Compliance with Standards,Emergency PreparednessIndustry:StorageCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:DeteriorationIncident:Fluid release to waterHazard:Harmful/IrritantCause:Containment FailureImpact:HUMAN (Offsite Injuries)Consequence:≥ 100 InjuriesMaterial:MCHM

Summary

On January 9, 2014, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) inspectors arrived at the Freedom Industries (Freedom) chemical storage and distribution facility in Charleston, West Virginia, in response to complaints from the public about a chemical odor. Upon arrival, WVDEP inspectors discovered a chemical leaking from tank 396, an aboveground storage tank (AST). The leaking tank contents were originally reported as crude methylcychohexanemethanol (MCHM), but 13 days later Freedom reported it was a mixture of Crude MCHM and polyglycol ethers (PPH, stripped) called Shurflot 944.5 The chemical mixture escaped tank 396 through two small holes on the tank floor and traveled down a descending bank into the adjacent Elk River. The holes were caused by pitting corrosion that initiated on the internal surface of the tank floor. The tank contents drained into the gravel and soil surrounding tank 396 and found multiple pathways into the river. The secondary containment or dike wall, originally designed to control leaks, had cracks and holes from disrepair that allowed the mixture, containing Crude MCHM and PPH, stripped, to escape the containment. The leak also found a pathway to the river through a subsurface culvert, located under adjacent ASTs.

After prompting by WVDEP, Freedom took action to stop the leak and prevent further contamination by deploying services to recover the spill and vacuum the remaining tank contents. However, nearly 11,000 gallons of a mixture containing Crude MCHM and PPH, stripped had already entered into the surrounding soil and Elk River. Once in the river, it flowed downstream to the intake of the West Virginia American Water (WVAW) water treatment facility, about 1.5 miles downriver from Freedom. WVAW’s water treatment and filtration methods were unable to treat and remove all of the chemical mixture in its water treatment process and as a result, it contaminated the drinking water within WVAW’s distribution system. That evening, WVAW issued a Do Not Use (DNU) order for 93,000 customer accounts (approximately 300,000 residents) across portions of nine counties.

KEY ISSUES:
• TANK INSPECTIONS & MAINTENANCE
• RISK COMMUNICATION
• PUBLIC WATER SYSTEMS SAFETY & RISK ASSESSMENT
• TOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION

ROOT CAUSES:
1. Corrosion of primary containment
2. Deteriorated secondary containment


Image credit: CSB

Origin

CSBUS Chemical Safety Board

Time

Sat 9 Jan 2021 - Sat 9 Jan 2021

Location

Freedom Industries

1108-1122 Barlow Dr Charleston, WV 25311

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