Health & Science

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Wednesday that he's appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deny West Virginia's request for emergency protective measures through the emergency declaration issued in response to the Kanawha Valley water crisis.

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.

WV Legislative Photography

Senate Bill 534 was introduced in the Senate Tuesday to increase the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The proposal would mean a $1 increase in taxes on a pack of cigarettes to $1.55 total. On all other tobacco products, the tax increases from 7 percent of the wholesale price to 50 percent.

“From a polling standpoint, people say they don’t have a problem with increasing cigarette taxes,” said Senator Bob Plymale, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Is the water safe to drink? As we've just heard, that's the question still plaguing hundreds of thousands of West Virginians who live in and around Charleston. I spoke earlier today with the other U.S. senator from West Virginia, the senior senator, Democrat Jay Rockefeller.

Senator Rockefeller, welcome to the program.

SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER: Thank you, Melissa. I wouldn't drink that water if you paid me.

BLOCK: Really? Well, that was my first question, would you drink the water? And you say no.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Officials in Charleston, West Virginia, testified today that the water there is now suitable for drinking and bathing, but nobody seemed ready or willing to call it safe. The testimony came at a field hearing held by members of Congress one month after a chemical in spill in the Elk River tainted the water for some 300,000 people. NPR's Brian Naylor was there today and he filed this report.

Pills, Drugs, Prescriptions, prescription drugs
RayNata / wikimedia

Federal prosecutors say 15 people have been charged with distributing tens of thousands of prescription painkillers in the Ohio Valley area of West Virginia.
 
     U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II announced the unsealing of an 83-count indictment on Monday. It alleges the powerful painkiller oxycodone and other prescription drugs were funneled into West Virginia from northern Ohio and Detroit.
 

@chemsafetyboard / Twitter

Tanks at the facility that spilled chemicals into 300,000 West Virginians' water supply were deemed out of federal compliance three months before the leak.
 
     U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso told a congressional panel Monday that Freedom Industries ordered its own review of its tanks last October.

The Allegheny Front speaks with news director Beth Vorhees about the latest on the Elk River chemical spill and where we are one month later.

Flickr / davidwilson1949

Two West Virginia government agencies have been accused of ignoring steps that could have taken to prevent the Jan. 9 chemical spill which tainted the drinking water supply for residents in nine counties.

The Charleston Gazette reports an emergency petition was filed Friday with the state Supreme Court on behalf of two nonprofit groups and two Charleston-area residents.

Four weeks after the spill from Freedom Industries, test results from one school in West Virginia shows traces of MCHM.

A sink at George Washington High School that had a sample gathered Thursday, February 6 tested at 0.018 ppm. This level remains below the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended threshold of 1 parts per million.

Test results from 13 other schools being tested show non-detect levels of MCHM.

Congressman Nick Joe Rahall is looking into the water situation in Alpoca/Bud in Wyoming County.

The long-term fix, known as the Covel project, will bring a new transmission main to serve the Bud/Alpoca area. The Eastern Wyoming Public Service District (PSD), in partnership with the Wyoming County Commission, has taken steps to repair the existing water system.

The Covel project has nearly a $5.7 million price tag, all of which – except for $125,000 – is Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funding.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing Monday morning in Charleston to learn more about the Jan. 9 chemical spill into the Elk River that left 300,000 people banned from using tap water for up to 10 days.

The witness list included the president of West Virginia American Water, state health, homeland security and environmental officials, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and county emergency and homeland security officials.

Freedom Industries President Gary Southern was invited but did not attend.

Raymond Thompson / WVU

West Virginia University researchers say, in an effort to fulfill their land-grant institution mission of serving communities in the state, they stepped up to begin a research project to study the Elk River Chemical spill. University funds as well as a grant from the National Science Foundation have provided seed money to immediately collect perishable data to conduct this study.

Lead Researchers:

Kanawha County Commission
Kanawha County Commission

 
The Kanawha County Commission and the City of Charleston have announced bulk water distribution sites for Friday, February 7th through Sunday, February 9th.

 

  • Crossing Mall – Elkview
  • Walmart Parking Lot – Quincy
  • Shawnee Park – Institute
  • Old Big Sandy Parking Lot – Cross Lanes
  • Big Lots Parking Lot –Patrick Street – Charleston

The Kanawha County Commission says bulk water tankers and buffaloes will remain at locations each day until 5:00 p.m. due to temperatures which are expected to drop below freezing nightly. 

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has announced a field hearing in Charleston on West Virginia's chemical spill. The meeting will take place Monday at 9 a.m. at the Kanawha County Courthouse.

The witness list includes the president of West Virginia American Water, state health officials, homeland security and environmental officials, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and county emergency officials.

Freedom Industries President Gary Southern has been invited. His attendance has not been confirmed.

Even more Kanawha County schools have canceled classes because of an odor resembling the chemical that spilled into a regional water system last month.
 
West Virginia Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro says Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring directed J.E. Robins Elementary School in Charleston to close Thursday morning as a precautionary measure.

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:30:

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring released the following statement:

A Wacky and Wild Winter in West Virginia

Feb 6, 2014
Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s going through a tough winter. Not just because several places have endured record low temperatures,  but also because it’s on pace to get more than usual amounts of snowfall.

West Virginia's lowlands are on pace to get higher than normal amounts of snowfall this year, according to Joe Merchant, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Merchant adds however, that some of the highest elevations are receiving about the same amounts of snowfall as expected.

Twitter

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is evaluating options to test tap water in people's homes after last month's chemical spill.
 
     After the Jan. 9 chemical spill, officials have based testing at the West Virginia American Water treatment plant and various other spots across the affected region.
 

Two West Virginia schools closed early because of an odor resembling the chemical that spilled into a regional water system last month.
 
     Riverside High and Midland Trail Elementary in Kanawha County closed Wednesday morning because of the licorice smell.
 
     The chemical wasn't detected in previous testing.
 

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."

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