In January 2014, the city of Charleston was affected when a tank containing 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked, causing contamination of the Elk River, which provides over 300,000 people with drinking water. Residents were without tap water for at least five days. But it may be months or even years before the total effect of the spill is known.
The company that owned the storage facility where the leak occurred — Freedom Industries — is now facing at least 31 lawsuits, along with state and federal investigations. As a result, the company has filed for bankruptcy.
Overfill and spillage can happen to any tanking operation. However, with a few precautions and a relatively minor investment, this event could have been identified early on, and action could have been taken to mitigate the leak and its destructive consequences.