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Firm Started by Ex-Freedom Execs Could Escape Loosened Regs

PHOTO: If a law passed in the midst of last year's water protests is amended, it might not apply to a company run by former Freedom Industries executives - cited for similar problems. Photo by Dan Heyman.
PHOTO: If a law passed in the midst of last year's water protests is amended, it might not apply to a company run by former Freedom Industries executives - cited for similar problems. Photo by Dan Heyman.
January 19, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Chemical storage problems at a company run by former Freedom Industries executives might escape state attention if the law passed after last year's spill is loosened.

Violations at Lexycon's tank farm in Nitro are worryingly similar to Freedom's, says Maya Nye, executive director of People Concerned About Chemical Safety.

Some state lawmakers are pushing to amend last year's water safety law to only apply to storage tanks near drinking water intakes – what's known as zones of critical concern.

Nye says Lexycon's tanks are right next to vulnerable parts of the community, but not in a zone defined as critical.

"You would think that being located right next to a church, a school and a playground, that would be another kind of zone of critical concern," she states.

A lawyer for the company told the Associated Press that it's addressing the violations.

Some lawmakers and some in the chemical industry say the current water safety law is over-regulation, since it applies to tanks that offer no threat.

Former Freedom Industries executives formed Lexycon about nine months ago.

State environmental officials have cited Lexycon for issues similar to what were found at Freedom.

Lexycon sells some of the same chemicals to the same customers, and inspectors found the same chemical that contaminated much of the state's drinking water.

Lexycon's tanks are not near a drinking water intake, but Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, says the location next to the Kanawha River still poses a threat.

"That could easily contaminate drinking water supplies, because once a toxin enters the water, it will eventually reach a drinking water intake down stream," she points out.

According to a report co-authored by the coalition, nearly half of the state's 40,000 storage tanks cataloged under last year's law are within 1,000 feet of surface water.

The report found over 1,100 tanks failed their initial inspection.

Nye says in the Lexycon case, she worries about children.

"Children are some of our most vulnerable populations,” she stresses. “We don't even know what the human health effects are for half of the chemicals that are in these tanks.

“These kinds of chemicals could have mutagenic effects. It could affect their children's children."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV