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West Virginia DEP investigating suspected chemical leak at Diversified Services

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KANAWHA COUNTY, WV -

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a suspected chemical release at Diversified Services near Saint Albans.

Diversified Services is the company that cleaned up the Freedom Industries spill site after the January 9 spill, which left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without water. The company also hauled the crude MCHM for Freedom.

According to DEP spokesman Tom Aluise, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed the DEP Friday of a sheen in a drainage system near Diversified Services. Aluise said that system leads to a tributary that goes into the Kanawha River.

According to Aluise, the DEP believes a chemical leaked into the drainage ditch. Investigators do not know the exact time frame the chemical leaked but believe it happened sometime late this morning.

The DEP has taken samples to determine the composition of the material released.

There are no public water intakes immediately downstream of the site. The nearest surface water public intake is in Huntington. 

Diversified Services is the company that cleaned up the Freedom Industries spill site after the January 9 spill, which left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without water. The company also hauled the crude MCHM for Freedom.

On Thursday, federal agents raided the business. Officials still have not commented on why federal agencies raided the business.  

Aluise said the DEP is working separately from the "federal investigation."

The infamous black licorice odor permeated the neighborhood near Diversified Services Friday. Neighbors say they've whiffed the smell far before the chemical spill in January. Since July 2011, the DEP has received nearly 40 odor complaints in connection with Diversified. Inspectors have never issued the company an odor violation.

"Something's not right," said Pam Thomas, who lives near the site. "You tell me it ain't high enough levels. That's what they told me the first time, levels not high enough to be a hazard. You live around here. See how you like it." 

Employees at Diversified Services would not answer questions Friday.

As of 4 p.m., a company attorney was unaware of the suspected spill.

"Nobody's told us anything," said Tom Scarr during a phone interview. " It's difficult to respond when we don't know anything."

The DEP issued Diversified Services a violation in 2011 for lacking a general industrial stormwater permit, according to Aluise. Diversified applied for the stormwater permit Nov. 18, 2013. It became effective Jan. 17, 2014.

Daniel Kessler formed Diversified Services, LLC in 2010, according to a database on the WV Secretary of State website. In 2008, he also helped create Buffalo Ridge Farms & Environmental Services, LLC.