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EXCLUSIVE: West Virginia Water's Secret Poison: Scientists Race to Identify What Gov. Is Not Testing

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Note: Comments regarding radioactive material in this article do not relate to the work of microbiologist Yuri Golby. In a follow-up message about this on Sunday, Jan. 26, Dr Gorby restated: “I want to make only 1 point….that we don’t know the complete complement of chemicals that might be present in that spill.  To my knowledge there is no reason or effort to test for the presence of radioactive materials.” The author apologizes to Dr. Gorby and to readers for any confusion over this.



Independent scientists are racing Tuesday to identify what the government is not testing, a secret ingredient in the chemical that Freedom Industries leaked into water supplying of 300,000 people, Nalco’s “Crude MCHM’. They are determined to find the ingredient that government is not testing, yet advising the public that the water is safe. 

Nearly 1000 West Virginia residents have gone to hospital emergency rooms for poisoning, according to government reports. That number does not include the number of patients seeing their family physicians at clinics. Both numbers continue rising, as residents are left to make their own decisions about using or not using the tainted water and breathe the tainted air.

Locorice odor a big clue to scientists

“Something else surely is in the chemical,” retired neuroscientist Dr. Paul Brown in West Virginia told Before It’s News on Monday. “Pure MCHM has a faint mint odor and residents are complaining of a strong licorice odor.”

That simple clue about the licorice smell reported throughout the nine counties most impacted in the present water crisis, is one government officials should have considered and acted upon, but have not, according to independent scientists speaking to Before It’s News’ Deborah Dupré, reporting from West Virginia.

Organic chemist Dr. Yuri Gorby is working with a team of other independent scientists to analyze water samples provided by locals so they can identify the secret part of Nalco’s “Crude MCHM,” the part that government officials are not testing, yet telling 300000 impacted residents the water is safe.

Nalco owns the “Crude MCHM” chemical. Eastman is the principal supplier. Freedom Industries is a distributor of the chemical. All are under the Koch Industries of the 1% on Wall Street.

“Eastman is the principal supplier of crude MCHM used in the froth flotation method of cleaning coal,” Brown said. “Their chemical data sheet for MSDM is totally inadequate, filled with unknowns about toxicity and environmental effects.”

“Presumably, the other stuff in the cleaning solution is responsible for the odor difference, and may be responsible for the harm people are suffering,” Brown said. 

Dr. Gorby says that government officials are only testing the organic compounds, not the inorganic carbon-based compounds. 

Four parts are in the 4 MCHM compound, Gorby told Before It’s News. His team has several “suspects” they are trying to identify for certain, one of which is used in the fracking process, he says. 

“We’re trying to find the other 3 and cross-reference them. If these four chemicals are found in fracking, we can make the assumption that people won’t know and scientists won’t know what to test. 

“It is unconscionable that the residents don’t have full answers to what is in the water and authorities aren’t doing anything useful about it.”


Suggested by the author

W. Va. Chemical Leak: Gov. Tomblin Gives Freedom To Residents (VIDEOS)

West Virginia Officials ADMIT ER Patient Surge AFTER Water Ban Lifted 

Baby Burns In W. Va. Poison Crisis

Over 200 West Virginians At State Capitol Demanded Answers (PHOTOS)

Gulf Oil Spill Villain Behind West Virginia Water Crisis Curtain 

Nat’l Terror Alert: What To Do In West Va. Chemical Attack

The Great West Virginia Freedom Industries’ Poison Swindle VIDEO 

Scientists Blow Lid Off Why ERs SURGING As WV Water Ban Lifts

W. Virginia Water Burns Woman’s Leg (PHOTO) 

Over 200 West Virginians Koch Victims Hospital-Treated For Poisoning 

W.V. Under Chemical Attack! State of Emergency: 9-County Water Ban

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    Total 35 comments
    • Thorin

      They aren’t disclosing the truth? How shocking.

      • Deborah Dupre

        Same old same old.

        More lies.
        More petrochemical-military-industrial-complex victims.
        More injured humans.
        More injured wildlife.
        More money for Koch Brothers and his !5 cronies.

        Thank you, Thorin.

        • LavenderRose

          Deborah I lovvvvvvvvvve your work

          thanks for all you share

          much love to you

          keep on!

    • True News

      Great story, Deborah, thanks for sharing with Before It’s News readers!

      • Deborah Dupre

        Thank YOU, Chris. It’s an honor to read you here.

    • Usefuleater

      ” as residents are left to make their own decisions about using or not using the tainted water and breathe the tainted air.”

      Does this statement mean the spill is ongoing? If only 7500 gallons spilled, shouldn’t the water supply be clean by now? If it is still contaminated, is it due to more leaking that they just aren’t reporting to the public?

      • Deborah Dupre

        The poisoning is still occurring – although it is not still leaking as far as we know.

        Its ***secret*** ingredient adheres to insides of pipes in homes (and elsewhere), so whatever injuries people didn’t get first go round, when told to turn faucets on and flush their systemns at home got people through vapors.

        People are still getting sick and injured from both water and vapors. At least Pregnant women were advised to have no contact with it.

        There is not enough water and people are begging for it.

        • Usefuleater

          Just awful…thank you Deborah for your attention to this and for answering my questions, much-appreciated!

    • INSIGNIA777

      As I have said before, I fear that this incident is already following the same path as the BP Gulf oil and Fukushima fiascos, with the media holding a lid down while protecting those responsible.

      When the political money machine moves it’s ugly hand, the corporate media stands still and obeys it’s orders.

    • Sta4D

      Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
      But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:13-14

    • Paveway IV

      Hmmm…. Now what kind of contaminants would the good folks at Nalco possibly have in MCHM?

      Let’s see what else they make:


      • Deborah Dupre

        Thank you.

        Please see my article about this published a few days ago: Gulf Oil Spill Corexit Maker Nalco Behind West Virginia Chemical Leak Curtain: /alternative/2014/01/gulf-oil-spill-villain-behind-west-virginia-water-crisis-curtain-2877830.html

        Yes – Uh-oh is right. This looks more disturbing daily. Another colony and innocent people in deep trouble.

        • Paveway IV

          Just in case someone may get the wrong idea, I was being facetious.

          There is no chance that there’s any Corexit in MCHM – it was a joke.

          Not that Nalco is to be trusted about much of anything, but the two chemicals and their production processes are completely unrelated. And as much as I despise Nalco, Deborah – they’re really not the problem. As long as it’s profitable to manufacture and use those chemicals, *someone* is going to make them. They wouldn’t have spent all that money buying off the regulators if it wasn’t.

    • Dustdevil

      The best MSDS sheet available on Crude MCHM can be found here:

      As for ‘what is this evil substance’? This total FEAR-PORN article and comment section is an absolute joke – take some chemistry and understand how MSDS sheets actually work, before you go nuts showing how foolish your comments are.

      This chemical, for all purposes, is a hexavalent METHANOL. It’s wood alcohol, people. IT is deadly because IT IS METHANOL. Stop the fear mongering over it, it is a bad chemical that for proper disposal, must be burned after dilution with other similar chemicals (like ethanol). It is lethal to fish, humans and microbes – IT IS METHANOL!

      Now, for all those ‘scientists’ who can’t figure out why it ‘smells like licorice’, I guess you just need to have been born and raised in West Virginia to get it. W. Virginia is heavily populated with a specific tree that not only is used to flavor ‘Sarsaparilla’ but also to flavor Licorice, the Sassafras Tree. Now, if you know Sassafras, you know it grows heavily near woodland streams – like the one that this spill happened near. The oil in the Sassafras Tree’s roots that provide the food flavoring is an aromatic oil. As you would use methanol or acetone to remove oils from plant fiber (acetone is used to decaffeinate coffee beans), you understand that a methanol spill near sassafras roots that are exposed on a creek bank would lead to instant oil extraction – an aromatic oil that YOU CAN SMELL, and that you would smell as either sassafras tea, or as licorice, depending on your personal experience dictates.

      Go to the head-water where the spill happened. Identify the trees near it – you will find bank-side sassafras trees, and the source of your licorice smell. Hexavalent Methanol (some really bad stuff) is what has happened, nothing more. It will dilute to insignificant levels by the time it hits a major river system – dilution and burning are the only two ways to eliminate methanol from a biological system.

      Stop being fools – learn some science.

      • INSIGNIA777

        With the thousands of people living it that area, I am sure they are well acquainted with your over simplified “tree theory.”

        Have not seen any report of the locals expressing such, as a consideration. None at all.

        Your bully attitude telling us to study “science” quickly places yourself it the “less” than educated category.

        What a joke!

      • Paveway IV

        Woah… take a hit off your inhaler, a handful of Xanax and calm down a bit, Mr. Organic Chemist. You have to understand that us common, stupid folk have never heard of ‘hexavalent methanol’. Googling ‘hexavalent methanol’ seems to indicate that the rest of the world hasn’t heard of it either. Congratulations on your discovery.

        Claiming that an alicyclic alcohol like MCHM has the same solvent properties of methanol (even if you capitalize it) is generally wrong. MCHM is an oily liquid, not a thin, volatile liquid like methanol.

        If you threw sassafras roots in a pot of MCHM for a few days, I suppose you could infuse some of the aromatics into it. I don’t think a seven thousand gallon stream of MCHM pouring out of a leaky berm over a few yards of muddy ground that has sassafras trees nearby is exactly the same thing.

        I’ll have to give you this though: The whole Elk River watershed is probably full of sassafras as you say. WVWA uses charcoal filters to finish their water. I could see the MCHM displacing or adsorbing something like sassafras oils from those filters and making the smell noticeable in their system. I would think they would have completely replaced those filters by now, but who knows. If that happened, you have to wonder what other chemical toxins were desorbed from the filters along with the sassafras oil.

        And since you seem to be such a MSDS fan, maybe you should actually read the thing before declaring MCHM’s toxicity profile identical to methanol. Here – I’ll have some PhD’s help you with that part: See the section they point out on chronic health effects? Hint: ‘Not Available’ is not the same as ‘Just look up METHANOL’ Why would you post such a foolish comment? I thought you took chemistry?

        Acute effects of MCHM poisoning in rats were salivation, gastric mucous lesions, constipation, lethargy, and uncoordinated movements. The initial tests also showed rats with blood in their urine, but the lab did a do-over with ‘better’ rats and the problem was gone. This was Eastman paying for the tests, so go figure. Organs damaged: spleen damage which reduced red blood cell production and liver and kidney lesions. And death. No testing was done for sub-acute or chronic effects. And – per your sassafras observations – the secondary effects of MCHM pulling other toxins into a municipal water system were not tested, either.

        A little more fear porn for you: the slimeball owner finally fessed up that it wasn’t just MCMH. They had also mixed in another 6% or so of Propylene Glycol Phenyl Ether, PPh, in the MCMH but just got around to telling everyone now. PPh is used as a foaming control agent to keep the frothing activity of MCMH in check. It seems to be marginally less toxic than what one would expect from MCHM. Here’s Dow Chemical’s brand:

        Lastly, your “dilution and burning are the only two ways to eliminate methanol from a biological system” is just odd. Dilution is not removal – it’s dilution. Dilution into the parts per billion range may be safe, but WVWA barely got it down to the parts per million range. The biological half-life of MCMH is about a week or two in river water. It does biodegrade through oxidation, but very slowly. UV doesn’t help. Here you go, Mr. Organic Chemist (it’s from Harvard):

        • Paveway IV

          First, sorry for mistakenly using the WVWA acronym for the water utility. It’s West Virginia [A]merican [W]ater – WVAW.

          They just published this useful PR called “Our Next Steps” FAQ which contains some curious and sad statements:

          “…Why does my water smell like licorice?

          The water may still have an odor. [If the answer starts out with this brilliant observation, then don't expect much in the rest of the answer] Odors can be detected at levels far below the level that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined is protective of public health. [Yeah, and the CDC doesn't see any problem with cancer or autism rates either. The CDC relied entirely on the manufacturer's questionable short-term rat tests. They didn't 'determine' anything.] In fact, it has been indicated that the odor threshold is 100,000 times lower than the adverse effect level…[So, the CDC figures 1 part of MCMH in 10 parts of water is the adverse effect level? Thank God! Drink up, WVa.] ”

          And for the carbon filters? Sorry, folks:

          “…Will you be changing the carbon in your treatment plant filters?

          Activated carbon caps on our 16 filters are renewed or changed periodically as part of our normal operations. [Industrial frothing oils in your damn system isn't normal though, is it?] Regular backwashing, which cleans and flushes filters, is part of our plant’s day-to-day procedures. [Backwashing only cleans out sediment, not gasoline additives or paint remover chemicals. Did you guys go to school with Organic Chemist Boy above, by any chance?] Activated carbon is an enhanced form of treatment that provides an absorption capacity far greater than traditional filtering media. [Except that enhanced treatment wasn't able to absorb MCMH, PPh and God knows what else] We plan to change the carbon in our filters when our treatment plant is operating at flows suitable for taking filters out of service. [In other words, we don't plan on changing them anytime soon] Changing out 60,000 pounds of activated carbon per filter is a physical process that typically takes 2-3 days each… [Time is money, and you're not worth it. Pay your water bill, drink our stinky water and shut the hell up. Freedom didn't have insurance, and we're not paying for all that damn activated charcoal.]“

        • Paveway IV

          Oh, hell… just when you think this freak-show of a terrorist… er, industrial accident, could not *possibly* get any weirder, we get this from WSAZ:

          “…PPH is added to the Crude MCHM to act as an ‘extender’ in that the Crude MCHM is available in limited, sporadic quantities,” Freedom said in its response letter to the WVDEP. “At the time of the release on Jan. 9, the blend in Tank No. 396, after extensive calculation, was approximately 88.5 percent Crude MCHM, and 7.3 percent PPH by weight and 4.2 percent water by weight…”

          So I was wrong about the PPH. But let’s back up a bit.

          When you put water in a huge storage tank, you have to make sure it doesn’t freeze because the tank will burst. Freedom Terrorist Industries didn’t seem to ever have a problem with this before. I mean, it must get below freezing in that area every winter. The tank wasn’t heated or stirred, yet it never had problems for year before now. What could have happened this time?

          Mr. Southern gives his entire scam away when he uses the word ‘extender’.

          Was this cheap bastard watering down his MCMH to make a few extra bucks? Hey – tax cheats gotta make a living, too. Yachts are not FREE, for cryin’ out loud.

          I was wrong about the PPh being used for foam control. It was being used to sneak far more water than normal into the MCMH. Oh, sorry… *extend* their MCMH, I guess. Looks like he was getting about 10% more watered down MCMH to sell to his sucker customers. That’s money in the bank, baby! Even if PPh was the same price as MCMH (which I doubt), he was still making 5% pure profit just from the water. I wonder if that was water purchased from WVAW? Oh, the irony.

          MCMH normally has a little water in it according to the MSDS. For all the years up until now, that apparently wasn’t nearly enough to freeze or cause any problems in the tank. This year, the watered-down MCMH wasn’t so kind and busted the tank when all that water froze. Of course I have no proof – I’m just some idiot on the internet speculating. But let’s check with our pals at WeatherUnderground:

          Looks like the Charleston temps dove below freezing in early January, and approached 0°F on the 7th and 8th of Jan. By the 9th, temps warmed to above freezing. Oh yeah, and the tank just happened to start spewing on the 9th.

          So we have Freedom and Mr. Southern reluctant to report *all* the spewed chems because their customers probably were not aware of Freedom’s use of extenders. How embarrassing! Sorry about your children’s dissolving spleens and livers, WVa, but their running a for-profit business.

          And what about the poor water utility? Well, looks like they’re not so poor after all. WVAW is an American Water Works subsidiary – a big public company that gobbles up utilities on the cheap and runs them for even cheaper, making a small fortune in the process. In 2012, they almost cracked a billion in operating income:

          “Our vision is to be the trusted steward of your precious resource—water.” Yeah… I guess. How about the *only* steward of you precious resource? It’s not like anyone in WVa actually has a choice in the matter. How about using some of the equipment that you use for testing your wastewater compliance and checking the water your pumping into people’s homes? Scary thing about this is that they had no idea their water was tainted until they started getting complaints from their own customers. Now, I’m no water scientist, but isn’t that a pretty primitive damn way to monitor your water quality?

        • Paveway IV

          Sorry to keep replying to your article Deborah… I blame Organic Chemist Boy!

          And yes, it can get weirder.

          Freedom is now trying to blame West Virginia American Water. They claim a WVAW water line somewhere under the tank froze and punctured the tank, causing the spill.

          And since Freedom declared bankruptcy, they need some money. They were just bought by some rich coal dude – J. Clifford Forrest – from the environmental hell called Pittsburgh. Well, Freedom actually found someone that’s willing to loan them up to five million bucks to keep operating. What idiot would do that? Why, a newly-created J. Clifford company, of course. The scam is to loan money to your own bankrupt, tax-cheating business, and then foreclose on it a little later to keep the assets. That way, you swindle everyone: the creditors, WVAW and the 300K poisoned residents. Plus, you weasel out of any cleanup costs.

          And the final punch-line here: MCMH is only a tiny part of Freedom’s business. Their primary source of revenue: anti-freeze.

        • Paveway IV

          I know… I know… Last one, I promise.

          It looks like WVAW’s system has a massive built-in flushing capability. Remember the crack I made about American Water buying utilities on the cheap and running them even cheaper?

          Here’s what David Gutman from the WVaGazette reported yesterday:

          “…D. Michael Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America, wrote to the state Public Service Commission on Thursday to point out West Virginia American’s high rate of “unaccounted for water.”

          Unaccounted-for water is water that leaves a treatment plant, but never passes through a customer’s meter, meaning it is never sold. It disappears somewhere in a maze of leaky pipes.

          Langford points out that for the Kanawha Valley District, the company’s unaccounted for rate over a 12-month rolling period was more than 37 percent, as of June 2013…”

          This means that somewhere north of six BILLION gallons of water disappeared last calendar year in WVAW’s sieve of a system. And a third of all the stinky MCHM-polluted water they’ve pumped since the 9th has been leaking from their mains directly into the groundwater aquifer.

          Which aquifers are or eventually will be poisoned with Freedom’s taxpayer-funded poison? The principle groundwater aquifer: Kanawah River valley alluvial aquifer, and the uppermost sedimentary bedrock aquifers: the Upper Pennsylvanian and the Middle Pennsylvanian aquifers.

          If you don’t want to drink WVAW corporate water, you can dig a water well down to the poisoned alluvial aquifer or the poisoned bedrock aquifer. Mother nature will eventually flush those out for you… in another three or four hundred thousand years.

    • Anonymous

      This chemical is not used in the coal industry!
      Most likely this is one of the catalysts used in the “Fracking” process.
      These “Fracking” catalyst are a closely guarded secrete so you will never learn what it is.
      Look up “Crude Oil Cracking” to understand Fracking.

    • holistic

      If the water doesn’t smell right, then by all means stay the heck away from it if you humanely can. Our noses can warn us about things that we should not be exposed to. The “authorities” don’t want to let us know what’s going on, so we have to look out for ourselves and other decent people. Always, Always, Always drink water that has been filtered, preferably by reverse osmosis from safe location or bottled water. Learn to purify water wherever you are! I have a portable water filter that has zeolyte in it, that can remove heavy metals (including radiation) in case my home system goes out from electricity shortage. Be prepared and be safe!

    • crabby

      govmn’t not testing the licorice smell.. that’s because they were always a bunch-o-swizzlers..

    • Becky

      Whenever there is a rain or snow coming, the day before the skies are criss crossed with the chemtrails, does this have anything to do with the secret chemical found in the water of the Elk river?

    • Becky

      Whenever there is a rain or snow coming, the day before the skies are criss crossed with the chemtrails, does this have anything to do with the secret chemical found in the water

    • Weasel Keeper

      It’s a test run by TPTB, they have taken posession of all the water in the world so as to sell us clean water at gasoline prices when they poison selected aquifers and rivers through fracking and dumping.

    • Anonymous

      There is only one industry that require chemicals in those kind of quantities and are “secret” formulas and not even patented because they are so secret and they are “Fracking” chemical “catalyst”.
      Look up “Cracking Crude Oil” to help you understand the “Fracking” process.
      After hundreds of years of coal mining there are no secrets in the coal industry.

    • amoeba

      Brought to you by the fine folks at Nalco, who also has been dumping Corexit into the Gulf since the
      “BP Oil Disaster” (which never ended), sinking the oil to the bottom, helping to kill the Loop Current, killing the sea animals and making humans living nearby deathly ill. It should be clear that America’s mega corporations have no regard for anything other than profits, and the government has surrendered its role as protector of the people to one of accomplice.

    • Mother mary

      Their not testing it because they know exactly what it is. Now question is, Was this an intentional act?

      • Deborah Dupre

        Reasonable point.

        REMEMBER: A hole – not crack – a hole was at the BOTTOM of the tank when the story broke. Story line – someone tried to plug it – but Freedom boys had already said they’d not yet been there or seen the hole at that time.

        My question is how do we pry the actual chemicals out of the hands of the military – who also know what’s in the poison.

    • Deb,

      I work in the industry. Every cleaning chemical, product or supplies used “have to have” MSDS Sheets per OSHA Regs. These MSDS sheets give you the chemical breakdown and relations and precautions to use for it’s intended purpose or I case of a spill. What is the chemical called and manufacturer the plant stated was spilled? Then you just go on their website and download this MSDS sheet. Why is everyone making this such a secretive event when it’s very well regulated. If no MSDS sheet on a chemical the plant can be shutdown by OSHA, and in the case of a spill, the EPA can also. Why is the plant still running if it’s not compliant? These are very easy and basic questions to our regulatory agencies who without doing their job are also held accountable?

      • Sorry, also, I have never seen a spill where they just put floating pigs in the water trying to fence in the spill. You have to layout sand bags to stop the flow on top of the soil and immediately start to remove the contaminated soil by truck and store until tested. The hole made is then used as a barrier in which a double wall and cap system of clay and or concrete with rubber placed between the two barriers to keep further leaching from happening. Test ports are put in the ground outside this area and ground water is pumped up and tested constantly for verification. All I see are pictures of floating tampons that suck in floating oils and chemicals on the surface of the water. What if the chemicals are not lighter than water? It bypasses the pigs and travels on thru the elk river. Why is this not being treated as a true spill?

        • Deborah Dupre

          For cryin’ out loud – no need to be sorry. You’re contributing valuable points for the good people of WV to consider and act upon. They need that.

          How can any group quickly impeach their state government industry bought leaders doing everything they can to protect dirty industry perps and doing diddly for the people?

      • Here’s the mass sheet on the chemical with shows the makeup of the chemicals and testing for exposure:

        Not sure why everything is so hard to follow documentation and procedure and it also gives remediation requirements. Just 1thing is the chemical is alcohol scented to non detectable so not sure where the lic scent is coming from? Another chemical not disclosed?

        You can also look up mass sheets on chemicals that have a lic scent and used in the coal industry. Good thing for Deb to follow up on with a chemical engineer and report back?

        • Deborah Dupre

          Thank you.

          I’ve been surprised by the lack of a main task force with government and intellectually honest scientists and caregivers all involved in this major disaster impacting 300,000 people.

          What happened to dialogue, cooperation, working for betterment of the people. What an antiquated notion I think sometimes. Then, I see Koch beaten in court – and it renews my faith in humanity and hope for the planet.

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