Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014.
Steve Helber/AP Photo

Freedom Industries: other chemical is ‘proprietary’

About two weeks ago, a coal-processing chemical leaked into the Elk River, leaving 300,000 residents in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley without water service. Freedom Industries owns the ruptured storage tank that leaked the chemical, known as MCHM, which is used to wash coal, and which can be dangerous if consumed.
The emergency has unfolded in painful ways ever since – including contradictory messages as to who can drink water and when – but yesterday, the story took a turn for the worse. Investigators learned that another chemical was also in ruptured storage tank just upstream from West Virginia American Water’s regional drinking water intake.
And what, pray tell, was this other chemical. It appears Freedom Industries doesn’t want to say too much about it.
Freedom Industries disclosed the information to state and federal regulators on Tuesday morning, but health impacts of the chemical remain unclear, and Freedom Industries has claimed the exact identity of the substance is “proprietary.” […]
Richard Denison, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that Freedom Industries withheld the specific chemical identity of the “PPH, stripped.” The MSDS provided by the company lists the key “chemical abstract service” identification number as “proprietary.”
“All this means yet more questions and more uncertainty for West Virginia residents,” Denison wrote on his group’s blog.
Wait, what?
Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Freedom Industries – the company’s actual name – accidentally leaked a coal-washing chemical into the into the Elk River, creating a health hazard for hundreds of thousands of people. Two weeks later, Freedom Industries let officials know that, by the way, the coal-washing chemical wasn’t the only thing that leaked.
There was something else that the company called “PPH, stripped” that also appears to have leaked from the same ruptured storage tank. Why didn’t Freedom Industries mention this sooner? We don’t know. What exactly is “PPH, stripped”? Freedom Industries doesn’t want to give anyone details.
And how dangerous might “PPH, stripped” be? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control believes it’s less toxic than MCHM, but officials aren’t sure since the available research is “very limited.”
Not knowing precisely what the chemical is probably doesn’t help.
UPDATE: Related video:
The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/22/14, 10:31 PM ET

Company says 2nd toxin in West Virginia spill

Rachel Maddow reports on the belated revelation that a second chemical was leaked into West Virginia’s Elk River in the Freedom Industries leak two weeks ago.

Regulations and West Virginia

Freedom Industries: other chemical is 'proprietary'