Updated 1/13/2014: Charleston, W.V., PR firm Charles Ryan & Associates has dropped the chemical company in a Jan. 9 spill that left 300K without clean drinking water in the Mountain State.
After handling PR for Freedom Industries in the immediate aftermath of the spill, the firm decided not to continue the work over the weekend. Managing partner Susan Levenski told The Charleston Gazette on Sunday that the firm decided not to represent the company. The paper reported Jan. 12 that Freedom, which uses chemicals to clean coal, was founded by a two-time convicted felon, Carl Kennedy, who led guilty to tax evasion and failure to pay employees' withholdings to the government in 2005.
Freedom officials gave a brief press conference on Jan. 10 and released a statement through CRA, but the Gazette said Jan. 12 executives have "entirely avoided media requests" since then.
According to the Charleston Daily Mail, Freedom president Gary Southern provided little information about the accident at the press conference. "Look guys, it has been an extremely long day, I'm having trouble talking at the moment. I would appreciate it if we could wrap this thing up," Southern said, roughly five minutes into the press conference, the Daily Mail reported.
As much as 5,000 gallons of a chemical used to wash coal spilled into the Elk River in the disaster.
In a Jan. 10 statement attributed to Southernn, the company said public safety is its first priority, noting that it is working with federal authorities to fix the issue and determine the extent of the spill. He said the company is setting up an incident command center on site and will provide more information as it becomes available.
The chemical is 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM.
The U.S. attorney's office for the region said it opened a criminal investigation of the spill, which is believed to have infiltrated a water treatment downstream from the Freedom facility.
President Obama on Jan. 10 signed an emergency declaration for the spill, mobilizing federal resources to handle disaster relief.