Lawmakers, State Official React to Latest Press Conference

Feb 7, 2014

Director of the WVDHSEM Jimmy Gianato testifies before the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources.
Credit Ashton Marra

Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Jimmy Gianato testified before the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on Water Resources Friday, answering questions about the state testing water quality in homes.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency said during a press conference Wednesday home testing was not necessary, but that night, Governor Tomblin directed his staff to begin assessing the possibility of conducting the tests.

Gianato told lawmakers they are still in the planning stages.

“You can’t just walk into someone’s home and say ‘we want to test you water.’ So, we’re looking at how do we do that, what types of permissions do we need, what types of waivers do we need. There’s not a set plan as to who is going on to the person’s property. If there’s anything that has to be done to the plumbing, who’s going to do that work? How do we validate that the home was previously flushed and met the flushing requirements that have been laid out? Those are some of the things we’re trying to look at.”

Senate Majority Leader John Unger supports in-home testing, but was concerned with the lack of attention and willingness to monitor public health he feels from the federal agencies involved.

“I want to appeal that we’re not lab rats, we’re not poster children, but we’re human beings. We’re human beings and also we’re Americans. We deserve the same treatment and attention to help mitigate this situation and to build the confidence back in the people.”

“Instead of the Centers for Disease Control coming in for a day and holding a press conference and then climbing on their plane and flying out that evening,
I say they need to come in with their teams and spend some time here truly analyzing this chemical, truly doing the testing and seeing what’s happening within the infrastructure itself so we can fully clean it out.”

Senator Ron Miller of Greenbrier County was concerned with the schools where test results are coming back at safe levels and yet some students and staff are still experiencing side effects. He added infrastructure need to start becoming a priority for the state.

“I’ve heard stories, and I haven’t verified those, of people who are moving because they’re afraid for their children to be in the school systems here, they’re afraid to be here. I’m not sure that we need to take those drastic steps, but its going to hurt our whole state not just the Charleston area. We need all of our young professionals. We need young families and this is a frightening experience for them.”

“Where there is no vision, the people parish and I’m afraid we’ve lost that visionary leadership. We are not envisioning what we could become. Infrastructure is part of that visioning and we have to start emphasizing that. That’s how you build confidence. That’s how you build communities. That’s how you bring people home. They’re going to come home if there’s something here for them, but they’re going to come home if they can raise their family here. We have to continue pushing that in the state and that’s vision. So, if you’re talking about infrastructure, yes we need it, but it takes vision. We’ve got to have visionary leadership to build that too.”