Chemical Leak
5:58 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

In-Home Testing After Elk River Chemical Spill Launches

Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Tuesday the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project for residents in the nine counties affected by the Jan. 9 chemical spill into Elk River.

The project, which will make use of $650,000 from the state budget according to Tomblin, will be conducted by independent scientific experts under the direction of Dr.  Andrew Whelton, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of South Alabama, and Corona Environmental Consulting.

Gov. Tomblin said West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre offered financial support for the WV TAP project but no money from the company has been accepted.

Both Tomblin and Whelton referred to the project as "unprecedented."

Whelton said the project has three main objectives:

1. To convene an international panel of experts to examine the West Virginia safety factor of 10 ppb MCHM drinking water screening level.

2. Determine the drinking water odor threshold for MCHM.

"This action is important because it is possible that people that can detect MCHM odors at concentrations less than the sensitivity of labratory instruments," said Whelton.

3. Conduct a focused drinking water residential sampling study. 

  • Whelton said this will begin with a sampling of 10 homes across the nine counties affected (one per county, except for two in Kanawha Co.).
  • These 10 homes were selected with help from non-profits in the area, he said.
  • Testing will begin Wednesday and will take three weeks to complete.
  • Results will be released directly to homeowners as part of this study but, there will be an effort to provide this information to the public.
  • Whelton says those involved will not be reporting to the Department of Health & Human Resources or other government agency to ensure the independent nature of the project.

Whelton also noted plans for a larger scaled testing project to include a sample "much greater than 100 homes" as a continuation of the study. He also suggested the need for animal toxicity studies on MCHM as well as medical monitoring for those affected by the incident.