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Same Jerks Who Poisoned West Virginia Back With New Name, New Toxic Spills
Hey, remember "Freedom Industries," the nice folks who spilled an assload of toxic coal-cleaning chemicals into the Elk River in West Virginia a year ago, poisoning the drinking water for roughly a third of the state? We all enjoyed the antics of their CEO, Gary Southern, who swigged bottled water while telling reporters he was far too tired to answer their boring questions about "safety" and "damage." Then we were rather pleased when he was arrested and charged with being a big time crimer. Corporate malfeasance: ENDED!
Oh, except that a bunch of the other executives of Freedom Industries got the band back together and are polluting West Virginia all over again. Gary Southern may be awaiting trial, but a new company, "Lexycon LLC," is carrying on Freedom Industries' heritage of improperly storing toxic chemicals and slopping them all over the environment every chance they get:
State regulators have written up the new firm, Lexycon LLC, eight times since September for pouring chemicals without a permit, lacking proper "last-resort" walls to contain spills, and hosting tanker-trailers full of unknown chemicals, among other infractions, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.
Some of the infractions at Lexycon still haven't been addressed despite three site-wide inspections and dozens of smaller visits by regulators from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection since May, state reports show.
The owners of Lexycon even seem to have an emotional attachment to 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), the same chemical that spilled into the Elk River:
Inspectors even found the same little-known chemical that leaked from a Freedom Industries Inc. facility and tainted the water supply for West Virginia's capital city, despite the Lexycon owner's promise to a federal judge that his company wouldn't touch the substance.
You know how it is. You get used to mishandling a toxic coal-cleaning compound, and you just can't quit it. It's kind of like that movie with the cowboys in love, if one of the cowboys is a chemical wholesaler and the other cowboy is a toxic chemical that reeks of licorice and makes your skin burn.
[contextly_sidebar id="HbPGC10Lgn8JtfO6vuNRP0TRcJiLN1Mj"]Maya Nye, head of People Concerned About Chemical Safety, a West Virginia environmental advocacy group, said that Freedom Industries' metamorphosis into Lexycon looked awfully familiar:
I've noticed that when something goes wrong, you sell the company, you change the name ... Then suddenly, it looks like a shiny new package, but the way things operate is very similar. It's just kind of status quo.
After Freedom spilled the chemicals into the river, it moved the rest of its chemicals to a site in Nitro, West Virginia, where inspectors found problems almost immediately:
Containment walls filled with holes that could let materials seep into a stormwater ditch that drains into the Kanawha.
Freedom filed for bankruptcy within days of the spill. Three months later, Lexycon was founded by David Carson, a chemical firm owner who had done business with Freedom and bought the Nitro location.
The AP details that at least three other former executives or consultants for Freedom are now associated with Lexycon; company owner Carson is a close friend of former Freedom CEO Southern, and the two did business together in the sale of a Florida condominium.
When he incorporated Lexycon, Carson told the bankruptcy judge in the Freedom case that the new company wouldn't deal in MCHM, which makes it rather inconvenient that an August 2014 inspection of Lexycon's facility found a tanker trailer full of MCHM -- with inadequate secondary containment, as well. It had been removed by the time of a follow-up inspection in October. And then earlier this month, inspectors "found another violation — they couldn't figure out what was in two tanker trailers or to whom they belonged." Lexycon was given 20 days to clean up its most recent violations.
Sounds to us like these guys are some pretty upstanding members of the business community. It's only a matter of time until they're elected to Congress.