For nearly two weeks, authorities have scurried to deal with the toxic spill of a coal-cleaning chemical that's left 300,000 West Virginians without tap water. But the company running the spill site shocked officials yesterday by disclosing that the spill included a second, little-known chemical.
Freedom Industries—the regulation-violating chemical company that poisoned drinking-water supplies with the 5,000-gallon spill of "Crude Methylcyclohexane Methanol" on Jan. 9, then filed for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 17—told regulators Tuesday that the spill also included 300 gallons of PPH, a chemical solvent, according to the Charleston Gazette.
It's unclear why Freedom never flagged that chemical for FEMA, the CDC or other agencies involved in the toxic cleanup effort before, but the company may have been trying to protect its special formula:
Richard Denison, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that Freedom Industries withheld the specific chemical identify 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.
One form of PPH, produced by Dow Chemical, is listed by that company as useful in "solvent for textile dyes," "paint removers," and as a "coalescent for latex adhesives." According to its Material Safety Data Sheet, PPH can cause "corneal injury" if it makes eye contact, and it can generally cause injury only if swallowed in large amounts. But the safety sheet also alerts physicians to the fact that there is "no specific antidote" in cases of overdose.
The safety sheet also carries this warning: "Prevent from entering into soil, ditches, sewers, waterways and/or groundwater."
[Photo credit: AP]