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Freedom Industries tank demolition to start

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Crews are hoping to get started early next week on the major work of tearing down most of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom Industries, and officials overseeing the job hope to be done within a month on that part of the cleanup of the Elk River site, a bankruptcy judge was told Tuesday.

Independence Excavating Inc. contractors are planning to move heavy demolition equipment into place starting Friday and be ready to begin taking apart 10 of the site’s tanks. Three other tanks will remain on site temporarily for storage of stormwater runoff, but those also are to be removed.

Mark Welch, Freedom’s chief restructuring officer, told U.S. Bankrtupcy Judge Ronald Pearson the tank removal should take three to four weeks — assuming good weather and no problems — and must be done before further testing can be performed to determine the extent of contamination at the site.

“I don’t know what I’m going to find under there,” Welch said during a hearing in bankruptcy court in Charleston.

Welch also said he is continuing to negotiate with the Charleston Sanitary Board, in the hopes that Freedom can send stormwater runoff from the site to the board’s local treatment plan, rather than shipping it to facilities in Ohio and North Carolina. Local treatment and disposal for hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater could cut Freedom’s costs for that part of the cleanup from 60 cents a gallon to between 20 cents and 30 cents per gallon, Welch said.

Welch appeared at Tuesday’s hearing to provide an update on cleanup efforts at the site of the January chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water supply for 300,000 residents served by West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant, located just 1.5 miles downstream from the Freedom operation…

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