THE BEST EXPLANATION I'VE SEE YET ON 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol
This stuff is used as a reagent for froth flotation of coal. Coal is hydrophobic, many of the minerals in coal (clay, shale) are hydrophilic. When you bubble air through a mixture of particles with different degrees of hydrophilic/hydrophobic balance, the hydrophobic particles tend to stick to the air bubbles (because that minimizes the energy of the bubble film. This is the same reason that soap helps to remove dirt. Soap is a salt of a carboxylic acid, it has a polar tail that attaches to water and a non-polar tail that attaches to things hydrophobic (like coal, oil or greasy dirt).
As far as this specific compound goes, at high levels anything is toxic. There was so much of it that it was floating on top of the river. It is soluble in water, about what you would expect for an 8-carbon alcohol. It is all unsaturated (which makes it less toxic), but it does have a ring (which makes it more toxic).
It probably will degrade, but it is now winter, so any degradation will be slow, and will need:
There are reports that it is rapidly metabolized by adapted sewage sludge. Sewage sludge does have all of the things that bacteria need, other nutrients, oxygen and surface. Those things are not available in a river.
The stuff is pretty soluble, and the MSDS says that it is not expected to adhere to sediments, which I concur with. It floats, so it won’t seep down into the ground and down into immovable deposits the way that PCBs did in the Hudson river.
It will likely kill any animal or vegetable life it comes in contact with. Once it is diluted enough bacteria will metabolize it. It is winter now, so that will greatly delay biodegradation. The cold likely reduces toxicity some (but also reduces ability of organisms to respond to toxicity effects). You also can’t tell if plants have been killed until spring.
There likely won’t be long term effects, other than the bankruptcy of the company that did this and any associated suppliers or users that can be tagged with liability (and I hope better regulations and better enforcement). The damages are in the billions already.
It is likely that this is a result of negligence, which means officers and directors may be liable (criminally and civilly) too for improper supervision and insufficient funding of necessary procedures.
There won’t be enough money to compensate everyone, just like the Texas explosion. This is what a no-regulation mindset produces; owners of businesses gambling with the public’s health and safety. If nothing happens they are happy to privatize the savings, if something does happen they expect the government to bail everyone out.
What I write and post is believed (by me) to be accurate and correct and well documented by facts and logic (though the train of thought is not always posted). If anyone finds it to be otherwise, I would appreciate notice to that effect, and I will expand the explanation in that area. Competing financial interest: I am working on researching and commercializing products using skin resident commensal autotrophic ammonia oxidizing bacteria to naturally supply basal NO under normal physiological control via sweating to prevent and treat a number of disorders, including ASDs. Patents issued and applied for.