Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Chemical in Freedom Spill

Ken Ward is reporting that there is an interesting new twist in the story about the recent Crude MCHM spill in Charleston, WV. In a news report yesterday he reports that Freedom Industries is now telling State and Federal investigators that they had added another chemical to the Crude MCHM in the tank that leaked into the Elk River. The chemical is being reported as ‘PPH’ which is probably Dowanol PPh Glycol Ether. It was apparently added at a rate of about 5%.

The water treatment facility, Ken is reporting, thinks that their treatment process would have removed this chemical from the local drinking water. Additional tests are on-going to determine if that is true.

Blending of various chemicals to improve product performance is not an unusual practice in the chemical industry. Typically the blended products are given new names to help differentiate their improved performance. Current hazard communication rules do require that product material safety data sheets have to list hazardous materials when they are more than 1% of the product composition. Dow states that the PPh (which is more than 99% Propylene glycol phenyl ether) is an OSHA hazardous material, so it looks like it should have been listed on the Freedom MSDS.

It does not appear, however, from any of the news reports that I have seen, that Freedom Industries has provided their own MSDS for the Crude MCHM that they sold; they were apparently using the Eastman MSDS that would not have included references to PPh.

The Dow toxicity testing, which appears to be more extensive than the Eastman toxicity testing for MCHM, would seem to indicate that the PPh was less toxic than the Crude MCHM, but it would have slightly different medical effects. Again, PPh is a relatively non-hazardous industrial chemical that was never intended to be used in processes that would lead to human ingestion.

NOTE: There is a brief reference in Ken’s article to National Guard testing of the water. An earlier news report from WCHS-TV indicated that the 34th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team was providing laboratory support to the water treatment facility. According to a Virginia National Guard web site, other CST’s are also involved.

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