Energy & Environment

Chuck Roberts / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was joined Wednesday by state officials as well as officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency to provide an update to the ongoing response to the January 9 chemical spill by Freedom Industries into the Elk River.

Here's what we learned from the briefing:

1. The 1 parts per million threshold for MCHM doesn't declare the water "safe."

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Tomblin Wednesday afternoon joined members of the state and federal team involved in efforts following the January 9 chemical spill into the Elk River and water crisis that followed. Tomblin, along with officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state agencies, provided an update on what has been accomplished, the current status of spill response, and the actions the team plans to take moving forward.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Thousands of gallons of the chemical that spilled into 300,000 people's water supply are leaving West Virginia and heading to Pennsylvania.
 
     Freedom Industries expected to move 3,500 gallons of crude MCHM from its Nitro facility to a coal facility in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

The Charleston Gazette reports that two schools have dismissed early Wednesday morning over concerns regarding the safety of the water after a flushing process began this morning.

The CDC has published information regarding chemicals involved in the Elk River chemical spill, how they've determined thresholds for safe drinking water, and more.

Freedom Industries
AP

Officials from the federal agency that helped determine when people could use their water again will be visiting Charleston.
 
     Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday will give officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an update on last month's chemical spill. Environmental Protection Agency officials will join them.
 

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin
Provided

An official says two state air quality employees have appeared in front of a federal grand jury about the West Virginia chemical spill.
 
     State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise confirmed Tuesday that they testified several weeks ago in Beckley.
 

News director Beth Vorhees speaks with Here & Now's Robin Young about Monday night's public hearing in the House of Delegates chamber and other aspects of the story on the January 9 chemical spill at Freedom Industries.

Watch video of the U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing testimony on the West Virginia chemical spill held February 4.

 
 The Committee on Environment and Public Works' water and wildlife subcommittee convened Tuesday on the spill that left 300,000 people without clean water for days.
 

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Kanawha County Commission
Kanawha County Commission

Bulk Water Tankers – Bring Your Own Container Locations

  • Crossings Mall – Elkview
  • Walmart Parking Lot – Quincy
  • Old Big Sandy Parking Lot – Cross Lanes
  • Shawnee Park – Institute

Editor's Note: Officials with Kanawha County said Monday that winter weather has affected the ability to offer more bottled water at this time. We will update this post once again if announcements are made about bottled water distribution or if bulk water supply locations are changed.

Wikimedia Commons

Water: It flows through our very blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells. It flushes waste from our bodies, cushions our joints and allows us to digest and absorb food. The average adult human body is about 60 percent water. Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many are still offended and disturbed by the water crisis in the Kanawha Valley—“Kanawha” which, by the way, means “water way.”

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The state Division of Homeland Security released audio Friday of Freedom Industries' employee Bob Reynolds notifying the state spill hotline that a chemical was leaking at their Charleston location. The call was received at 12:05 p.m. on January 9.

Reynolds told the operator, identified later in the call only as Laverne, the Department of Environmental Protection was already on site.

"I heard about it about 15 minutes ago," Reynolds told the operator when asked what time the leak occurred. The operator estimated the time to be about 11:40 a.m.

The natural gas boom begs the question: what do you do with the waste?

A Virginia learning center focuses on good water stewardship.

3-D printers help Marshall University students learn human evolution.

And…what is that pink, teepee-shaped building in Pocahontas County, W.Va., anyway?

Kanawha County Schools

Tests conducted more than two weeks after a chemical spill tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians show the presence of the chemical remains in five schools.
 
     The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Friday released the results of water samples taken at 83 schools in five counties.
 

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A spokesman for a West Virginia environmental agency says cleanup crews at the site of a previous chemical spill severed an underground pipe, but none of the chemical that tainted the area's water supply earlier this month reached a nearby river this time.
 
     Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise says crews didn't know the pipe was there when it was struck Thursday night at the Freedom Industries site along the Elk River.
 

West Virginia Department of Commerce

Original story posted Friday, Jan. 31 at 2:46 p.m.

Emergency units in Berkeley County are responding to a reported fire at Ecolab Inc. in Martinsburg.

Ecolab is located in the 900 block of Baker Road near the V.A. Medical Center. The company manufactures industrial strength chemicals, solvents and cleaners.

911 officials said they received reports of an outside tank on fire. Nine equipment units were on scene as of 2:30 p.m. on Friday and were reporting no active fire, but a Hazmat team is checking for any possible leaks as a result.

Ashton Marra makes her third appearance on PBS NewsHour reporting on the Elk River chemical spill, discussing the discovery of formaldehyde in a Charleston restaurant as well as the public's feelings on their level of trust in the water. Ashton also discusses legislation moving through the Capitol dealing with the issue.

West Virginia Needs More Solar Jobs, Report Says

Jan 31, 2014
West Virginia University

A new report by two independent organizations says West Virginia is lagging behind in bolstering solar energy programs and providing solar energy jobs.

The report points out surrounding states are benefiting from past investments into this renewable energy technology.

Two groups that support sustainable economic development, Downstream Strategies and The Mountain Institute, teamed up to compare West Virginia’s solar energy job growth to surrounding states.

State officials in West Virginia say that in most areas, they can no longer detect any of the industrial chemical MCHM that spilled into the water supply recently. They say the water is safe for people to drink and use — including most pregnant women. But other public health specialists say they don't trust these assurances.

"I think there's no way to know what the safe levels of the chemicals are at this point," says Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the state's largest public health department. He's in charge of protecting 250,000 people whose water was affected by the spill.

Foo Conner / Flickr

The water company involved in West Virginia's chemical spill is providing 20 more tractor-trailer loads of bottled water for the nine counties affected.
 
     Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin requested Thursday that West Virginia American Water offer more bottled water, since the state has spent nearly $890,000 on more than 17.5 million bottles of water.
 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Marshall University Professor and Vice-Chair of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board Dr. Scott Simonton presented testimony to the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources Wednesday.

In his testimony, Dr. Simonton said he had found formaldehyde in the water supply of the Charleston restaurant Vandalia Grille. He also said he "can guarantee" people are breathing in the chemical while showering.

Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia House of Delegates is paving a long legislative road for new regulations on above-ground storage tanks.
 
     But Speaker Tim Miley says his chamber isn't stalling the chemical spill-inspired bill.
 
     Miley says giving the bill three committee stops doesn't mean it won't go anywhere. Often, assigning a bill many committees shows leadership isn't seriously considering it.
 
     Miley says Senate Bill 373 could take longer in the House. A public hearing will take place in the House chamber Monday.
 

State utility regulators have ordered West Virginia American Water to continue providing quarterly reports on the quality of its service.
 
     The Public Service Commission's order says the information will allow it to monitor whether the company's response to a Jan. 9 chemical spill has any lasting impact on its distribution infrastructure in the Kanawha Valley.
 

Marc Glass is a principal researcher in charge of evaluation and remediation of environmental contamination in soil and water for the environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies. He’s been testing water samples for private residents affected by the Elk River chemical spill. While his results haven’t turned up any traces of formaldehyde, it is something they’ve been testing for.

How long did the Freedom tank leak?

Foo Conner / Flickr

Officials from the Bureau for Public Health and West Virginia American Water released separate statements regarding Dr. Scott Simonton's testimony Wednesday to Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources, calling his remarks on the discovery of formaldehyde in the water of a Charleston restaurant "unfounded", "misleading", and "irresponsible."

Twitter / @kenwardjr

Fresh Air recently interviewed Charleston Gazette investigative reporter Ken Ward about the Freedom Industries chemical spill. Here are the highlights:

On how the chemical leak was discovered

Some people who live in that part of town called in both to the metro 911 — the county emergency operation center — and to the state Department of Environmental Protection complaints of an odor, that they smelled some sort of a strong licorice odor in the air.

On Jan. 9, people in and around Charleston, W.Va., began showing up at hospitals: They had nausea, eye infections and some were vomiting. It was later discovered that around 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals had leaked into the Elk River, just upstream from a water treatment plant that serves 300,000 people. Citizens were told not to drink or bathe in the water, and while some people are now using water from their taps, many still don't trust it or the information coming from public officials.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

By now, you’ve probably heard of crude MCHM, the chemical that spilled into the Elk River in early January contaminating the drinking water of 300 thousand West Virginians.

And may be you’ve even heard of PPH, the second chemical contained in the leaky tank at the Freedom Industries site.

But almost three weeks after the leak, how much do we really know about these chemicals?

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