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Broken water pipe, freeze said to have been factor in spill

By David Gutman

Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly a week after Freedom Industries last spoke publicly, the company broke its silence Thursday evening, proposing a theory that its “Crude MCHM” chemical leak was caused, in part, by a broken water pipe uphill from its property, according to a source close to the company who demanded anonymity.

The source said water from the broken pipe flowed under the tank farm, then froze during the recent cold temperatures and expanded, puncturing the tank from below.

“It looks like somebody took a sharp object and stuck it through the bottom,” the source said.

He said that even though the tanks were surrounded by a concrete retaining wall, they were sitting on gravel, so the chemical leak seeped through the gravel, into the ground and under the wall.

State officials have described the retaining wall as shoddy and in need of repair. A representative with the Chemical Safety Board, which is inspecting the site, said Thursday that the tank sits on a concrete pad and the soil that surrounds the pad.

West Virginia American Water replaced a leaking water line along Barlow Drive on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a water company spokeswoman. Barlow Drive is where Freedom’s tank farm is located.

The leak of Crude MCHM, a coal-processing chemical, contaminated the Elk River and the drinking water of 300,000 residents of the Kanawha Valley…

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