Tag Archives: West Virginia Spill

The 4-methylcyclohexane methanol spill in West Virginia (Coal cleaning chemical)

4-methylcyclohexane methanol is a chemical used to clean coal before it is burned. As you know a region of southern West Virginia where upwards of 100,000 people live has been affected by a spill of this chemical; the water supply in this area has been made unavailable for human use. A 48,000 gallon storage tank for 4-methylcyclohexane methanol has been leaking the chemical into the Elk River, which is part of the municipal water supply in the area.

Apparently there isn’t a lot known about this particular chemical. It’s chemical name is scary looking, and resembles the names of other better known chemicals that are really toxic. But it is also a form of alcohol. How bad can that be?

I wonder if the various chemistry experts out there could comment on this chemical.

Given the nature of the molecule, is it likely to be toxic? To bio-accumulate? To evaporate over time, or not? Even though there is apparently no way to clean the water of this chemical in place would that be something that could be easily implemented?

Is this region of West Virginia now uninhabitable for the next few decades or is this chemical going to degrade and/or disperse to a harmless level in a few weeks?

Any ideas?

Sources of information:



Debora Blum


Salon: Little is known