Probe uncovers second chemical in West Virginia spill

Workers at Freedom Industries work through the night to empty storage tanks of chemicals into tanker trucks at its plant in Charleston, Va., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, where a chemical spill at the company has deprived 300,000 West Virginians of clean tap water for several days Steve Helber, AP

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A federal agency says a second, likely less toxic chemical also was released during a spill that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a storage tank that leaked a coal-cleaning chemical also contained a mixture of polyglycol ethers, or PPH.

Information on PPH's toxicity is limited, but the CDC's statement says it appears to be lower than that of the primary chemical leaked in the Jan. 9 Elk River spill at a Freedom Industries facility in Charleston.

The CDC says PPH made up about 5 percent of the tank's volume. The chemical entered the water, and though the system hasn't been tested for it, current levels probably are low.

The state Public Health Bureau released the CDC statement. The agency says it received the statement Tuesday night.

While no one became seriously ill from last week's chemical spill, some homeland security experts said the emergency was proof the United States has not done nearly enough to protect water systems from accidental spills or deliberate contamination.

Officials found out about the spill when people started calling in complaints about a strong licorice-type smell in the air. West Virginia American Water, which supplies 300,000 people with water in the central part of the state, said it would not have detected the chemical because utilities don't test for it. Before the spill, no standards existed for measuring the chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, in water, the utility said. 

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.