Updates

2-Year Anniversary

January 9 marks the 2-year anniversary of the West Virginia Water Crisis. Today I want to share a look at where we are now and where we need to go in the future.

Where are We Now?

In the wake of the January 9, 2014 chemical spill numerous legal actions were initiated at both the state and federal levels by various parties. Community advocates have been at the forefront of state legislation to register never before documented chemical storage tanks. Approximately 50,000 tanks were identified for regulation, many of which were located along West Virginia’s water supply. The spill’s fallout and West Virginia’s lead to create a chemical storage tank regulatory program set a precedent for several other states to enact their own chemical tank legislation and bills were proposed in halls of Congress and the U.S. Senate. Despite immense public support, these West Virginia regulatory bills were already being dismantled by the next legislative session.

In addition to legislation intended to prevent similar crises, numerous criminal charges were filed against parties responsible for the spill. The U.S. Attorney for southern West Virginia obtained 15 indictments for up to 93 years in prison against Freedom Industries’ former president Gary Southern for charges including wire fraud. Although in an FBI-conducted investigation Gary Southern claimed no association with Freedom Industries, he ultimately pled guilty for violating the federal Clean Water Act, the Refuse Act, and negligent for failing to have a pollution prevention plan, and faces up to three years in prison and $300,000 in fines. Among five other Freedom Industries executives who pleaded guilty on charges related to the spill, Dennis Farrell, pleaded guilty to violating the Refuse Act and failing to have a pollution prevention plan, for which he faces sentencing of 30 days to two years in prison and up to $200,000 in fines.

Numerous civil suits have been filed in the aftermath of the crisis, including over 50 against West Virginia American Water in just the first nine months following the spill. Several personal injury suits as well as a class action lawsuit against Freedom Industries, its top executives, Eastman Chemical Company, West Virginia American Water, American Water, its parent company. In December, Freedom Industries Farrell and Southern settled one such class action for $50,000 and $350,000 respectively.

BarlowDrive

As devastating as the original spill was, cleanup and remediation of the spill site has been just as problematic although less publicized. To dispose of the spill waste, which is not categorized as hazardous by the EPA, tank liquid was mixed with sawdust and dumped in a solid waste landfill in nearby Hurricane, West Virginia. After Hurricane residents complained of licorice odors in the air, the city of Hurricane discovered the MCHM disposal and sued Disposal Services Incorporated and Waste Management. The suit was settled with the two companies paying $600,000 for the city’s legal fees and agreeing to monitor the MCHM present in leachate — the water draining out of the landfill —  and the three groundwater monitoring wells surrounding the site every six months for the next five years. If they detect MCHM above 120 parts per billion, they must notify the city and county, stop sending the leachate to the Hurricane wastewater treatment plant, and close its aeration system.

Despite the seeming wins in these lawsuits, their likelihood of making even a dent in the tens of millions dollars the state lost as a result of the crisis, the irreparable damage on citizens’ health, and other industries’ likelihood of upholding their responsibility to not endanger the lives of the public is slim. The conclusion of this chapter considers how these legal repercussions compare to those of other major man made environmental disasters such as the 1972 Buffalo Creek Mine Disaster in West Virginia and how civil suits must become the primary deterrent against public health and environmental crimes.

Looking Forward

The West Virginia Water Crisis was one of the worst drinking water contamination incidents not just in West Virginia, but in the nation. Although the particular circumstances — a coal washing chemical spilling into the drinking water source due to a chemical storage facility’s willful neglect of their above ground storage tanks  —  may seem relevant only to coal country, but above ground storage tanks are largely unregulated. Each state is responsible for creating the legislation and infrastructure to fulfill the EPA’s federal Clean Water Act, and many, like West Virginia, never created state-level regulations to enforce the law. 

In addition, 4-MCHM is still not listed on the Toxic Substance Control Act Inventory of 82,000 toxic chemicals. Environmental and public health advocates, and more recently, the EPA and chemical industries have cited the TSCA Inventory for its ineffectiveness. When the inventory was created in 1976, there were 60,000 untested and unregulated chemicals left off the list, including BPA, formaldehyde, and asbestos. Now there are thousands more unregulated chemicals like 4-MCHM that have never been studied for their effects on human health and safety.

On the river, Charleston, WV

On the river, Charleston, WV

Just as critical as the regulatory questions raised by this and other major drinking water contamination incidents like the Toledo Water Crisis, the Dan River Spill, and the hazardous levels of lead in Flint, Michigan drinking water, are the questions about response protocol and crisis communication standards. One of the most important questions is how to instruct the public to protect themselves when there is little to no information available on the chemicals the public is being exposed to, how to determine safe exposure levels during cleanup and remediation processes, again when there is little to no data, and how to adequately address public concerns openly and honestly while also teaching them how to protect themselves from exposure.

In addition to these questions about prevention and response, now that thousands of West Virginians have been exposed to these chemicals, long-term health monitoring is essential to learning the full health impacts of the crisis and being able to provide the appropriate care for those exposed. Numerous organizations have created proposals for the monitoring of long-term illnesses and diseases relating to exposure from the spill, but as of yet, none have received funding. The current and future illnesses resulting from this chemical exposure will have no formal means of being tracked, and the significance of this event on public health will ultimately be lost.
It is our hope that continuing our research and advocacy will raise awareness of just how complex and far-reaching the West Virginia Water Crisis was, how it could happen anywhere if regulations and the enforcement of those regulations remains unchanged, and what the long-term effects of the crisis are on the public, the environment, and the sociopolitical environment in West Virginia. Without such documentation, we fear the significance of the crisis will be lost. 

Please like and share this post if you care about your right to safe water. 

If you live in West Virginia, your attendance at the Safe Water Public Forum on Jan. 9 is crucial. If you’re unable to attend and want to make a donation to support safe water in West Virginia, visit the WV Rivers Coalition site.

As always, I thank you for your support!

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West Virginia Water Crisis Judicial and Research Updates

Barlow Drive

The site of Freedom Industries after its court-ordered destruction.

Hi, fellow Water Crisis advocates, friends, and newcomers. I have some extremely important updates for you on recent developments on the Water Crisis. Whether you’re from West Virginia, the Appalachian region or are an environmental advocate or just someone who cares about how corporations affect your family’s health and safety, this is for you. If you need a primer on the Water Crisis to get you started, I recommend watching one of these two short videos I created.

Class Action Lawsuit Approved against those believed responsible for the West Virginia Water Crisis

First, early last month a federal court judge approved a class action lawsuit against West Virginia American Water Company and Eastman Chemical Company, which sold the 4-MCHM to Freedom Industries. Kate White and Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette-Mail detailed elements of the federal order:

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. issued a 60-page order on Thursday certifying liability classes in the lawsuit.

Copenhaver defined the liability classes as:

• All people living in dwellings supplied tap water by West Virginia American’s Kanawha Valley Treatment Plan on Jan. 9, 2014;

• All people or entities who owned businesses operating in real property supplied tap water by the plan on that date; and

• All people who were regularly employed as hourly wage-earners for businesses that operated in real property supplied tap water by the plant on that date.

The class-action suit alleges the water company did not adequately prepare or respond to the leak, which occurred just 1.5 miles upstream from its regional water intake. It alleges Eastman — which manufactured the chemical MCHM and sold it to Freedom Industries — did not properly test the chemical or warn buyers or the public about potential health impacts.

This means there are at least 300,000 people who may qualify to participate in this class action lawsuit. Of course, as a Water Crisis advocate who knows the many details of this event and the arguments regarding both companies’ failure to protect the public, I am thrilled this lawsuit is being permitted to move forward. As a Ph.D. who studied West Virginia history, I am moved and greatly encouraged that such a case is finally being allowed by such an industry-driven government (yes, especially in the judicial branch; if you want more on that just read renowned historian John Alexander Williams’ West Virginia and the Captains of Industry). I wasn’t as surprised as I could have been because the trial of West Virginia coal baron Don Blankenship has given me more hope for the state as of late, but I was still elated.

This trial moving forward means that a federal judge acknowledges there may have been negligible acts on the part of both companies that harmed the public, who now have a chance to prove these acts occurred and demand restitution. That, my friends, is a huge win. Think the “Erin Brockovich” class action against Pacific Gas and Electric for knowingly poisoning Hinkley, CA residents with hexavalent chromium. West Virginians finally have the chance to stand up in court to defend their health and livelihood against two dominating companies in the West Virginia industrial landscape.

And remember, class action lawsuits are not just about restitution for individuals, they are about public policy change. It is my hope that the stories of those affected by the Water Crisis will gain further national attention as a result of this trial so that the rest of the nation might realize their own vulnerability against mass hazardous chemical exposure of this sort. The best case scenario is that this attention will result in legislative changes both at the state and federal level because one of the key lessons learned from the Water Crisis is that federal laws like the Clean Water Act were not being enforced at the state level (and not just in this one instance, but statewide and for decades ).

Scientific Study by Eastman Chemical Company Claims 4-MCHM Poses No Toxicological Risk

Now for the not-so-encouraging news. Last week Eastman Chemical Company released the toxicology results of their study on “Crude” 4-MCHM, one of the many chemicals present in the chemicals spilled into the Elk River by Freedom Industries. The abstract explicitly states: “Collectively, the findings and predictions indicate that crude MCHM poses no apparent toxicological risk to humans at 1 ppm in household water.” 1 ppm is one part per million, which was the CDC’s screening level for 4-MCHM.

What lay and even some expert readers of this study may not notice or recognize the importance of is that this report was 1) conducted by Eastman Chemical Company; 2) contradicts findings from external researchers, such as Dr. Andrew Whelton and the West Virginia Testing and Assessment Project (WV TAP), which was funded by the state government after much public outcry and conducted by world-renowned scientists and engineers not affiliated with the chemical industry, or the Kanawha Charleston Health Department; 3) the study relies on incomplete (and therefore inconclusive) studies by the National Toxicology Program and many non-peer reviewed studies; and finally 4) the study admits to using toxicity data collected on 4-MCHM from the 1970s rather than collecting data or using data collected for the aforementioned studies that accurately reflects the composition of 4-MCHM today.

Why Eastman Chemical released this study the same month the class action suit against them was approved, I can only surmise. I’m sure you can too.

The West Virginia Water Crisis in Context (Part 4 of 4 in the Water Crisis Continues)

 

Between the struggle to finally get the health effects of the 4-MCHM contaminated water tested by federal authorities, the six month long process of getting the site of the spill demolished, and thousands of West Virginians who still don’t trust their water, the water crisis continues in West Virginia. And now, a similar and even wider-reaching water crisis is bringing Toledo, Ohio to its knees. I hope that Toledo can take some lessons from what we went through in West Virginia and be more efficient and successful in remediating the contamination and helping Toledoans during and after the crisis. I believe I can speak for those affected by the West Virginia Water Crisis when I say that our thoughts are with Toledo, and I, for one, am willing to help in sharing your stories and providing information and advice for recovery.

To follow the water crisis in Toledo, search #toledowater or #ToledoWaterWarning.

The new water crisis has prompted me to post a portion of the introduction to my dissertation on the rhetorics of advocacy and activism in Appalachia, in which I use the water crisis to explain why we need to change how many think and talk about the region of Appalachia. This is just a short excerpt, and I will be posting more at a later time, but I hope it prompts discussion about why recovery from the water crisis in West Virginia was so slow, arduous, and mishandled. Hopefully, Toledo can learn much from West Virginia.

Appalachia is not a place the majority of Americans think about with much frequency – either as a region or in its constituent parts. However, there are times when catastrophic events on a large enough scale may garner some national attention, even if only with the same morbid curiosity that causes one to slow down to glance at a car wreck or take a few minutes to observe a sideshow. As I recently learned from the public reaction to the West Virginia Water Crisis, there are many sympathetic to Appalachia because they either have family or friends from the region, or perhaps they drove through it once and found it remarkable in its beauty. But on the whole, when something terrible happens in Appalachia, only a small percentage of outsiders become personally invested. Much more often the public wonders at the ignorance, neglect, and laziness of Appalachians that undoubtedly led to the situation, and usually indictments of the region and its people follow. Unfortunately, these public reactions don’t simply live on in news interviews looping on national television or in the comment boards of news websites. They live on in the minds of Appalachians and in the minds of those making decisions that affect Appalachians’ lives. In the case of the West Virginia Water Crisis, these opinions affected West Virginians’ most basic right to health and safety.
On January 9, 2014, Freedom Industries, a chemical storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia spilled 10,000 gallons of chemicals, including 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (4-MCHM), into the Elk River, the main water
source for 300,000 West Virginians. After discovering the contamination, West Virginia’s governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, declared a State of Emergency and West Virginia American Water issued a Do Not Use Order for the tap water in nine counties in West Virginia. The order lasted for one week, but because West Virginians were presented with numerous conflicting orders and an absence of information about the health effects of the chemicals and since the tap water was still observably contaminated (by the smell, taste, and physical interaction between the water and water vapors with skin, eyes, and lungs), many refused to use the water for several weeks and even months after the order was lifted.

These missteps by government officials and agencies also discouraged residents from following the official flush orders that were meant to eliminate the contamination from drinking water pipes, putting their health in even further danger. In addition to these immediate causes for the public’s distrust, West Virginians were deterred from believing official advice about their health and safety by a history of fraught relationships with industries fiercely protected by the local government to the detriment of the people who must live, work, and play in the resulting severely damaged and dangerous environments. Governor Tomblin, and former West Virginia governor, now U.S. Senator, Joe Manchin, both fiercely oppose stricter environmental regulations on industry yet were major players in the handling of the water crisis fallout.

West Virginian and Appalachian historian Shirley Stewart Burns explains the politician in the pocket nature of industry in her home state, “West Virginia policymakers have a history of favoring big business over other citizens” since the Supreme Court of Appeals shifted to an industry-favoring judgeship in the 1890s (1). West Virginia’s preferential treatment of industrial endeavors began to take advantage of the rich natural resources of the state that were still untapped by the fin de siècle. However, by relying on one industry, Burns explains, West Virginia leaders “ensure[d] the state’s status as a bit player in the national economy” (2). This single-industry economy has remained since then, growing with a political system that reinforces a “power structure . . . assured to only benefit the mine operators” and making West Virginia a “peripheral region within the American and global market system” where “power resides in the core, and resources from the periphery flow in that direction” (2). Thus many West Virginians feel disenfranchised by their own local government, as well as state and national representatives.

However, West Virginians are understandably in a double-bind. The coal industry provides many of the jobs in West Virginia, and is believed by many to keep the state economy afloat. Thus despite the flow of resources away from the workers that supply them, many West Virginians are fiercely protective of industry. They are told in massive public relations campaigns by the American Coal Council that “Coal Keeps the Lights On” and school children are taken on field trips to coal mines. However, this campaign belies the truth of the overall effect of the coal industry on West Virginia’s economy. The New York Times pointed out in an article on the Water Crisis on January 18, 2014, titled “Chemical Spill Muddies Picture in a State Wary of Regulations,” coal only employs nine percent of the state’s population. And the overall economy of West Virginia is not benefiting from coal: in 2012, West Virginia ranked forty-ninth in the nation in per capita GDP. However Appalachian region counties with the highest scores on the Toxic Release Inventory, which indicates more toxic pollution, are the most economically well-off in Appalachia, posing what Nancy Irwin Maxwell calls “a different brand of injustice, a forced choice between pollution and poverty in a disadvantaged region of the American landscape” (in Morrone and Buckley 76). During the Water Crisis, West Virginians were publicly critiqued for their unflagging loyalty to the very industry that caused this environmental disaster and the structural inequality and complete lack of federal oversight without which the crisis never would have occurred were mainly mentioned only by more progressive news media and a few vocal activists.

There are activists who used this crisis as an opportunity to speak out through social media against the destructiveness of the coal industry. Yet there is a real struggle between these environmentalist rhetorics and those of people immediately affected by the water crisis who may not identify as anti-coal or pro-regulation but are speaking out against the mishandling of this water disaster. Thus in an attempt to avoid divisive rhetorics pertaining to the spill, organizations that have formed in response to the disaster, like Friends of Water, discourage discussion of politics, especially those relating to the coal industry, on their Facebook forum. Limitations on what is publicly acceptable to discuss about the chemical spill while still garnering support for stricter regulations on the chemical industry in particular, are understandable, yet they limit public discourse on warranted overarching concerns about deregulation of all industry in West Virginia, as supported by Tomblin as recently the day before the crisis.

Another no less concerning issue raised by the events surrounding the crisis is the distinct lack of national media attention devoted to the water disaster. Although scientists now recognize this as the largest instance of a chemical contamination of drinking water in U.S. history, it has taken a dramatic backseat to many other national news stories such as Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. The Nation reporter Reed Richardson provides the most telling account of the media’s lack of coverage of the crisis of a continually overlooked state: on the last day of the “Poop Cruise” on which 3,000 Americans lost drinking water and the use of bathrooms when their cruise ship lost power, CNN devoted over twelve hours to the debacle, but as of the first five days West Virginia Water Crisis, only gave the story thirty minutes of air time. Many, including the Huffington Post declared the crisis over only a few days in, while water was not officially declared safe for months. Very few have done investigative reporting and political commentary until a few weeks into the crisis when circumstances predictably worsened. Many residents I spoke to were outraged by the nearly non-existent media coverage but expected no better. One West Virginian suffering from the water crisis said, “They don’t care about us. They don’t care about West Virginia.”

West Virginians’ reaction to the media’s willful ignorance of West Virginia’s continual abuse by the government and extractive industries is unsurprising. West Virginians are well-aware of outsiders’ perceptions of them, an issue documented and studied by Appalachian scholars for decades (Batteau; Billings and Blee; Drake; Eller; Fisher; Whisnant). Historically, Appalachia has been used as a symbol for rest of the nation, treated as the “embodiment of anti-civilization” (Batteau 196). This designation evokes one of two formulations of Appalachian identity: the romanticized mountaineer or the demonized hillbilly. The first version of the Appalachian – the racially pure, innocent, industrious, proud, independent, rugged, and fearless mountaineer – is a paragon of America that deserves to be lauded and emulated by the rest of the country. The second version – the genetically degenerate, ignorant, lazy, violent, unclean, feckless, and destructive hillbilly – is a blight on society that deserves to be held into contempt until remedied through government intercessions (Batteau 17). The former depiction was one that flourished in some of the first writings about Appalachians, but in the late twentieth and twenty-first century has been replaced to a great extent by the latter derogatory depiction of the hillbilly. During the United States’ current economic crisis that started with the 2007-2009 Great Recession and continues today in the Lesser Depression, Appalachia continually plays the convenient role of the epitome of everything that went wrong with this country. And in a crisis like the recent one in West Virginia, Appalachians become easy victims to blame.

It is much easier to use the “problem region” of Appalachia as a scapegoat for the rest of the country when the national economy takes a downturn and blame the region for its willing participation in an extractive economy when an environmental disaster leaves the ecosystem and the health and well-being of its people in shambles, despite the fact that chemical spills and air pollution occur daily all across the United States. Kenneth Burke explains that the scapegoat mechanism is not intended to resolve any material problems, but instead acts as “vicious atonement” for the sins of those who criticize the scapegoat (Grammar, 406). Thus Appalachia draws so much national interest and criticism for its deficits during economic recessions and large-scale industrial disasters, but very rarely does it draw national attention to the systemic roots of its problems because that would require real change and the admission of responsibility. I argue that by demanding a more critical and contextualized public understanding of the Appalachian region, its history, and conceptions of its regional identity, we can advocate for a better Appalachia without the many unintended negative repercussions that often accompany advocacy and activist work in the region.

Happy West Virginia Day! (Part 3 of 4 in the Water Crisis Continues)

Hi everyone,

Happy West Virginia Day! I want to wish you all a day of reflection on and celebration of our beautiful state of West Virginia. I was recently at the New River Gorge and Summersville Lake and shot some footage of the incredible natural beauty that our state has to offer. So please enjoy this quick video montage of that footage along with a message I think will resonate with everyone affected by the West Virginia Water Crisis.

I encourage you all to Facebook, tweet, or instagram your own video or photos of the natural beauty of our state, using #keepWVclean. Let’s start an online movement showing everyone just why keeping our water, land, and air clean is so important.

Sincerely,

Krista

West Virginia Water: The Crisis Continues (Part 2 in Series of 4)

In the first part of this video, I explain that a second spill occurred on Friday in addition to the spill I focused on in my last video in this series. If you would like to read more about the spills on Thursday and Friday, read Ken Ward’s article in the Charleston Gazette. I don’t recount all of the details from that article, but I do raise an important question in response to DEP Secretary Randy Huffman’s statement about the most recent spill: why do we continue to rely on Freedom Industries to ensure public safety? why doesn’t the EPA or another government agency demolish the site?

The rest of this video focuses on what we as citizens can do to remain vigilant over the water crisis. I believe it is the public’s job —  our job, yours and mine — to draw national attention back to this story. We all remember how many missteps the state and federal government made throughout the first few weeks and several months, really, of the water crisis. No one paid attention to us until we demanded it at press conferences, town hall meetings, protests and vigils, through letters, emails, and phone calls, and online through social media. If we thought our work was over, or at least not as urgent because we aren’t in a state of immediate crisis, the past two days events have proven us wrong.

So what is it our responsibility to do? I know we all have different obligations of our time, abilities, and interests. I’ve been quietly working on my research on the crisis that is now being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and last month I screened a preview of my documentary on the water crisis at the West Virginia International Film Festival. But I haven’t been as vocal about recent events because I’ve been tucked away doing that work, and I constantly worry that my silence and the silence of others takes the pressure off of government officials to do what needs to be done. Yesterday’s spill makes it very clear to me that we need continued action on our part to hold our government accountable for violations of our health and safety. So here are some simple actions you can take to make industry caused environmental disasters less likely in our beautiful state of West Virginia:

1)   Inform yourself! Read and watch local news. I know that sometimes it’s hard to find stories about the water crisis because they’re so buried on news sites, so a quick way to find out what’s going on is to search the Twitter #WVWaterCrisis. There you’ll find both news reports and local on-the-ground stories and commentary about what’s going on.

2)   Share your stories. In my research, I’ve found that Facebook is one of the primary ways people shared information about the Water Crisis and organized action. So share links to news reports and videos like this one on your wall and encourage your friends to read them. While you’re on Facebook, check out the Friends of Water Facebook page. Friends of Water is an online community that keeps those who follow the page informed of legislative and community action pertaining to the water crisis. You can also follow West Virginia Clean Water Hub and West Virginia Citizen Action Group on Facebook to keep track of activities pertaining to the water crisis.

3)   When you see a planned action like gathering at a legislative session, a town hall, or a protest, go! All it takes is showing up. Trust me, the presence of every person there really adds up. These public gatherings get the attention of the media and of politicians. Remember the press conference that forced Tomblin to provide funding for the WV TAP program? Public demonstrations of outrage are effective. I wonder if yesterday’s spill would have happened had we been protesting outside of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson’s court while he delayed the demolition of the Freedom Industries site for five months.

4)   The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will provide an update on their investigation into the January 9 chemical spill at a meeting on July 16 from 12-3 pm at the Four Points Sheraton in Charleston. They will present their findings and allow time for public comments, so I encourage you all to attend

Share your stories about the water crisis here, either in print, video, image, or audio. Everyone’s story is important. Telling individual stories is what makes the water crisis real and relevant to others who may not be invested in the ongoing crisis in West Virginia.

West Virginia Water: The Crisis Continues

Hi everyone and thanks for tuning in for an update on the West Virginia Water Crisis. As you may know there another chemical spill was reported yesterday at Freedom Industries, the same site where 10,000 gallons of the coal-washing chemical, 4-MCHM was spilled into the Elk River, causing a water crisis that made the tap water unusable for 300,000 people in West Virginia.

 

Yesterday, a storm water containment trench at Freedom Industries overflowed into the Elk River. WSAZ reporter Michael Clouse and WOWK reporter have both reported that the licorice smell associated with 4-MCHM was noticeable. Think Progress reports that it was the Department of Environmental Protection that realized a spill had occurred due to a sump pump failing to send the overflow into a storage tank. The DEP has been on site at Freedom Industry and at West Virginia American Water testing the water. West Virginia American Water reports on their Facebook page that “initial results show no detection of MCHM in water at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.” They also reported that there have been no odors detected, contrary to what journalists and residents near Freedom and the surrounding area have been reporting.

 

I have seen several people online asking how results from testing results came back so quickly when it took so long to get previous testing on chemical levels in our drinking water from the January 9th spill. I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know from all of my work with the environmental engineering team that has been working on testing the water in home plumbing systems affected by the January 9th spill that different laboratories have different capabilities for detecting chemicals in water. Just because one laboratories’ equipment can’t detect something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A better lab with more powerful equipment may detect something, but at a much lower level than the screening level than another lab. Also, although MCHM was not detected, there are no reports on what other chemicals may have been present in that water and what other chemicals they have tested for.

 

Another question being posed is how there were still any chemicals at the Freedom Industries site to be spilled into our water again. The West Virginia Gazette reported today that the demolition of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom that Governor Tomblin ordered just two weeks after the January 9 spill has still not occurred because Freedom has not been able to acquire the permits needed to do so. Why would it take so long do get these permits, you may ask? Because Freedom’s bankruptcy case requires that a judge approve all of the company’s expenditures. What I’m unsure of, and I can’t find reports of anywhere, is what is taking so long to approve this expenditure. Apparently, a budget for cleanup and demolition has been filed with the bankruptcy court, but they are sealed so that contractors don’t try to use estimates to inflate their cleanup costs.

The video you watched above will be part of a series of videos, including exclusive news about the WV TAP project, and information on how you can help make West Virginia water clean and keep our state beautiful. So stay tuned!

Also, please read an update with more details on this most recent spill from Ken Ward with the Charleston Gazette.