If you had been among Freedom Industries' dozens of employees, you would have known more than your neighbors about the contents of a toxic spill that left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without safe tap water recently.
After state officials discovered on Jan. 9 that chemicals had gushed out of a storage drum and into Elk River, the company told them that the drum contained something called 4-Methylcyclohexane methanol. The poison is used by the state's coal miners. Little is known about the precise hazards that it poses, but it has sickened hundreds of people.
What the company didn't tell the government until last week was that the drum also contained something that they call stripped PPH. The company did, however, tell its own workers about that second chemical in an email immediately after the spill. So, lucky them.
Stripped PPH was mixed in with the other chemicals in the drum at a concentration of about 6 percent. A material safety data sheet (MSDS) provided to state officials says stripped PPH contains a complex mixture of polyglycol ethers. "The specific chemical identity is being withheld as 'trade secret,'" the company wrote in the safety document, which was dated Oct. 15, 2013.