Energy & Environment

“If it’s good enough to wash coal, it’s good enough to wash me.” That’s a tweet that supposedly went out from the West Virginia Coal Association in response to the Elk River chemical spill. No such remark exists on the association's feed today, but the sentiment sparked reactions from many, including one southern W.Va. health campaign. In the aftermath of the MCHM spill, they’re bringing up questions about certain coal mining practices.

Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman says he and Gov. Tomblin are already having conversations about what possible legislation can be introduced following last week’s chemical spill.

Officials at Downstream Strategies in Morgantown say the Freedom Industries facility slipped through many gaps in the regulatory system. One of these gaps is that since the company wasn’t storing a petroleum product just a few miles from the water intake, it wasn’t subject to a lot of regulations and oversight that would have required stronger contingency plans, in case a spill happened, and much more frequent reporting.

"As a product, MCHM is not a hazardous substance. There's only very limited toxicology data on that, but it's not regulated as a hazardous substance itself, just a component of it is, which is methanol," said Marc Glass with Downstream Strategies.

"It's a mixture of several components."

  Glass,  says collaboration and cooperation between the utility company, along with the industry and even environmental regulators, must be much better.

He says there’s a framework, an assessment plan that was written in 2002, that could act as a tool to help all stakeholders work together better. It's a source water assessment program, that was actually written for the Elk River. This assessment is located here.

The 2002 assessment suggested, amongst other things, that a secondary source of water should be identified to help protect drinking water when incidents occur.

But Glass says regardless of what is done, it needs to happen soon, because incidents like this one could certainly happen at any time, if problems are neglected.

“It’s certainly a wake up call for what could have happened, and a good opportunity to take heed of just how critical access to clean water, how critical that is for our economy," Glass said.

"We always talk about the challenges of balancing the environment with the economy, but just look at what happens to the economy when we don't have the availability of good, clean water.
 

Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

West Virginia American Water began the long-awaited flushing process yesterday afternoon for residents who have been without water since Thursday.

Residents in the nine counties began the flushing process using an interactive online map. The chemical leak has left residents without the use of water since Thursday. Residents have been instructed to follow a detailed process once their area is in the blue zone on a map at amwater.com. Jeff McIntyre is President of West Virginia American Water. He said it’s a three-step process.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  The aftermath of last week's chemical spill continues. On this West Virginia Morning, we learn why the Department of Environmental Protection wasn't inspecting the storage tank. Also, an interview with WVU interim president E. Gordon Gee.

Ashton Marra

John Kaiser of Dunbar has been without water since Thursday. No dishes, no laundry, no shower just like 300,000 other West Virginians.

But Sunday, you could say, was a better day for Kaiser. Sunday one of his three Kanawha County restaurants—a Steak Escape connected to a gas station on Corridor G—was allowed to reopen.

“You had to submit a plan to the health department of how you would meet their standards,” he said. “We did that and they came out (Saturday) night, did a walk through, did an inspection and they approved us.”

C.W Sigman

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board says it will investigate a chemical spill in the Elk River that has contaminated the public water supply in nine counties.
 
     Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said Saturday that the board wants to find out how a leak of such magnitude occurred, and how to prevent similar incidents in the future.
 

Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Poison Control Center has received nearly 800 calls from concerned residents since a chemical spilled in the Elk River.
 

gavel
wikimedia / Wikimedia

At least half a dozen lawsuits have been filed over a chemical spill in West Virginia that contaminated water supplies.

Major questions remain in the chemical spill from Freedom Industries, Inc. in the contamination of West Virginia American Water supplies across nine counties. West Virginia Public Broadcasting news director Beth Vorhees interviews Mark Glass from Downstream Strategies, Ashton Marra reports on the recent press conference at West Virginia American Water, and Dave Mistich gives a run down of activity on social media.

Stream the audio above to find out the latest from our Charleston news bureau and be sure to follow @wvpublicnews.

West Virginia National Guard

As the National Guard joins Governor Tomblin as well as various county, state, and federal authorities in helping those affected by the state of emergency due a chemical leak and water advisory, we here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting will do our best to keep you informed on water distribution centers and filling stations as they become available.  Below is the most up-to-date list of these centers we have.

Department of Environmental Protection, DEP
Department of Environmental Protection

State regulators have issued a pollution violation notice to an oil and gas drilling company following a tank explosion at a Tyler County well site.
 
     The Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday that the tank ruptured on Jan. 2 at Jay-Bee Oil & Gas' Lisby gas well pad. Fluid leaked from the tank onto grounds surrounding the well pad.
 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia is beginning to warm up a bit following an arctic blast that broke cold temperature records across the state.
 
     Temperatures on Wednesday morning ranged from 4 degrees in Elkins and Lewisburg to 12 degrees in Bluefield.
 

West Virginia is about to experience the coldest temperatures the state has seen in about 20 years.

The National Weather Service issued the following winter weather message mentioning several counties in northern Virginia, western Maryland and eastern West Virginia this afternoon:

Roscoe Bartlett, U.S. Representative for Maryland's 6th congressional district from 1993 to 2013, is going "off the grid" in the mountains of West Virginia. By building his own home powered by solar energy, and attempting to live off resources collected himself, Bartlett says his mission is to be “independent of the system.”

Glen McCoy

KIMBALL, W.Va. (AP) — Hazardous material crews are cleaning up following a trail derailment.

Officials say at least 16 cars of the Norfolk Southern train derailed around 8:30 a.m. Friday in an area of McDowell County along U.S. Route 52. No evacuations were ordered and there were no injuries.

The train has five locomotives and 111 cars and is about 7,000 feet long. It was headed from Bellevue, Ohio to Linwood, N.C.

State emergency officials say booms are in place to prevent the tar leaking from a ruptured tanker car from going any farther down into Elkhorn Creek.

Jessica Lilly

The state is providing a useful way for West Virginians to dispose of their Christmas trees.

The Department of Environmental Protection will collect trees and sink them in four West Virginia lakes to provide fish habitat. The Register-Herald reports that the department's ninth annual Christmas tree recycling event is set for Jan. 4 at the Capitol Market in downtown Charleston.

West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center

The most prominent resident of a bird rehabilitation center in Fairmont has died.

Nyttend / wikimedia Commons

West Liberty University is getting a $24,760 grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to continue its recycling efforts.
 

The school says the award will allow its voluntary recycling program to grow from its infancy into a full-fledged, mandatory program.

Federal mining regulators issued more than 290 citations during October and November impact inspections.
 
     The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says it also issued 21 orders following inspections at 18 coal mines and three other mines.
 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Snow crunches under foot as Jim Baker gives a mid-December tour on about 170 acres his hunting club just acquired. The property sits along the Morgan-Hampshire County line in the shadow of Cacapon Mountain bordering Cacapon State Park.

“Basically some rolling hills at low elevations before you see the larger Cacapon Mountain in the background,” Baker said.  “It gives you an idea of what I call the diversity in topography around here.”

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