The Jan. 9, 2014, chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia, affected the drinking water of more than 300,000 people. Residents living near the Elk River were the first to report a suspicious odor, and they may well be the last to feel the effects of the spill.
The incident revealed some hard truths about the company responsible, Freedom Industries Inc., and the state. For example, the company not only failed to report the spill, but when officials arrived at the plant it was clear that the company had done nothing to respond to the emergency. The chemical mixture, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol or crude MCHM, was leaking from a 30,000-gallon tank; Freedom Industries had no idea how much MCHM had spilled, had not stopped the leak and had not tried to contain or to mitigate the harm caused by the MCHM that had escaped.