Soil Excavation to Begin at Freedom Industries Spill Site


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Excavation of soil contaminated by the 2014 Freedom Industries spill is scheduled to begin Monday, Dec. 7. The environmental contractor for the Freedom restructuring team, Core Environmental Services, plans to remove between 9,000 and 10,000 tons of soil from the Etowah River Terminal property. The work, which also includes soil sampling and backfilling the site with contaminant-free dirt, is expected to take up to three months – barring no major weather delays. Prep work, which includes clearing brush and installing silt fencing, is already under way.

Representatives with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Environmental Remediation met with Core and restructuring team officials last week to discuss the details of the excavation plan, which had to be approved by DEP as part of Freedom’s Voluntary Remediation Agreement for the site.

During the excavation, neighbors or passers-by may notice the signature “licorice” odor associated with MCHM, the material that made up the bulk of the approximately 10,000-gallon spill. Efforts will be made to reduce the odor – including covering any dirt that is stockpiled on site, and spreading lime over the soil once it is loaded into the dump trucks to be carried to the nearby Charleston Landfill for proper disposal. Cooler seasonal weather should also result in fewer odor issues than if the work was done during the heat of summer.

Core will also be setting up MCHM, PPH and benzene air monitors. The testing methods being used are modified versions of existing methods for similar chemicals and have been validated by a third-party consultant. If levels are deemed higher than desired, Core may make adjustments – including altering the digging schedule or implementing other odor-reducing measures.

Because of the time workers will spend within the work zone, the contractors will take precautionary measures that will include, at times, wearing protective clothing. 

Once the excavation is completed, Core will do additional soil sampling to determine if any contaminants can still be detected, and then backfill the area. The results of this sampling will help determine the extent of any additional remediation measures needed at the site. The entire remediation project is expected to be completed, according to the agreement, by the third quarter of 2016.

The Jan. 9, 2014, Freedom spill, which was of materials used in the coal preparation process, occurred just a mile-and-a-half upstream of a water intake that serves approximately 300,000 people in nine counties of West Virginia. As a result, those water customers were ordered not to use the water for anything but toilet flushing for several days.

For more DEP news and information, go to Also, be sure to connect with the agency on all social media platforms. Follow @DEPWV on Twitter and find us on YouTube by searching “Environment Matters.” For specific information about our REAP (Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan), West Virginia Project WET (Water Education for Teachers), West Virginia Watershed Improvement Branch, Youth Environmental Program and Human Resources initiatives, connect on Facebook.



Kelley Gillenwater
304-926-0499, ext. 1331