Monday, January 13, 2014

Status report, Elk River chemical spill, Charleston, West Virginia.

Special Report to Bexley Public Radio, WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM by David Schwenker, Huntington West Virginia.

The spill of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, while 1/2 mile upstream of the water plant in Charleston, is 90 miles upstream of Huntington, which has its own water station.  This sounds odd, since Huntington and Charleston are 45 miles apart.  If you look at a map of WV, you will note that the New River starts in southern WV, becomes the Kanawha river at the confluence of the New and Gauley rivers (lots of rafting there) and meanders north west to Charleston where it meets the Elk River, where the spill originated.  It travels north because of the mountain elevation.  It then flows to the Ohio River at Point Pleasant WV, where the water continues its predictable flow to Huntington and on to the Mississippi.

 The toxic quality is unknown, but figures to be diluted enough that the CDC reckons the water here in Huntington will be safe, or within safe parameters when it reaches us tonight.

I had to work yesterday as my company had emergency shipments of sanitizer and water arrive during the night.  We unloaded it and delivered it to some of the hospitals affected.  A very strong licorice smell at the leak site continues, and one hospital is only one mile from the it, so the stink permeates everything. 
There is a feeding frenzy of lawyers going on now, so Freedom Industries, the owner of the tanks, will cease to exist.  The death of Freedom in WV.  Tragic.

Some of my truck driver acquaintances have hauled this chemical, gotten it on their hands, and washed it off to no ill effect.  They consider it a minor irritant if left on the skin.  Some people are more sensitive, so the panic begins.  The Health Department shut down all restaurants, laundries, any business where washing hands and using tap water is critical in the affected area, so everyone was put out.  The Charleston Civic Center, near the spill on the Elk River, postponed its Rough and Rowdy Brawl one week, since the building reeked of licorice.  I expect the National Licorice Company will sue Freedom Industries for using its scent in a chemical designed to wash coal.  Licorice sales have plummeted in Charleston.
The weather here is pleasant now, compared to last week, when the -5F may have made the leak worse when it froze and busted.
Life goes on.
Submitted by David Schwenker for broadcast on WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM.

Biographical note.  David Schwenker is a well-known and respected artist and raconteur working and residing in Huntington, West Virginia. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University, College of Arts and Sciences and holds the degree of Master of Fine Arts (MFA).

From time to time David produces news and cultural features for Bexley Public Radio. He is best known for police blotter stories that chronicle the ravages of illegal drug-use in West Virginia.

This note is copyright 2014 by David Schwenker.

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