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State orders West Va. plant to come clean on chemical spill

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has ordered the owners of a coal-cleaning plant to disclose everything that leaked from a storage tank and fouled the water supply for 300,000 people.

Freedom Industries, Inc. has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to report all of the substances that spilled into the Elk River in Charleston on Jan. 9.

The order comes after Freedom told the state Tuesday that in addition to the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM, its Ettowah Terminal storage tank held roughly 300 gallons of a chemical called PPH, or polyglycol eithers.  

“Having this revelation so late in the game is completely unacceptable,” Environmental Secretary Randy Huffman said n a news release Wednesday.

The WVDEP said this second chemical was not included in the initial information regarding the contamination, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s spokeswoman said Wednesday that the initial tests didn't detect PPH in the water. 

A Freedom Industries data sheet on PPH says it can irritate the eyes and skin and is harmful if swallowed. 

Failure to report the spilled chemicals accurately directly violates state code. 

Huffman says “having to order them to provide such obvious information is indicative of the continued decline of their credibility.” 

Freedom filed for bankruptcy protection last week. The company owes $3.66 million to its top unsecured creditors, according to bankruptcy documents, The Charleston Gazette reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.