Health & Science

Former coal miner Joe Stanley says he lost his job after a conflict with management, when he, as union president, demanded to know more about the chemicals that were being used in the mine. "I watched the coal industry poison our water for years. Now they're telling us not to drink the water? We've been dumping this stuff into unlined ponds and into old mines for years," he says. One of those chemicals, Stanley says, was MCHM.

Foo Conner / Flickr

The Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division wants the agency to continue requiring West Virginia American Water to submit quarterly reports on service quality.
 
A 2011 order issued by the PSC requires the company to submit the reports through the fourth quarter of 2013. The Consumer Advocate Division asked the PSC on Wednesday to continue the requirement until further notice.
 

Sen. Jay Rockefeller
Politico

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has written to West Virginia American Water for a second time since the chemical leak at Freedom Industries January 9.

In a letter sent this morning he asked West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre to respond by Friday, Jan. 24.

Rockefeller states he’s deeply concerned that after the “do not use” ban was lifted for people living in Buffalo, Fraziers Bottom and Pliny, further tests revealed levels of Crude MCHM higher than 1ppm.

Perry Bennett / Flickr

Hundreds braved bad weather to gather at the state’s capitol to rally in response to the Elk River chemical spill. The solidarity stretched across the state, the country and perhaps around the world with other small group and private vigils. Pictures from various events flowed through social media channels.

*Special thanks to Steve Schmidt who collected sound for that segment from the Capitol last night.

As Ken Ward of The Charleston Gazette reports, officials with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board say a product known as "PPH" was included in the the January 9 spill.

Leigh Hall

A  truckload of water was delivered to a school in Wyoming County Monday morning. The school and several communities served by Alpoca Water Works have been without usable water for almost five months.

Last week, we brought you the story about Herndon Consolidated and the surrounding communities.

Graphic Detailing the Elk River zone of critical concern, from downstream strategies new report.
Downstream Strategies

Downstream Strategies President Evan Hansen has worked on a report called "The Freedom Industries Spill: Lessons Learned and Needed Reforms." Hansen says new regulations on storage facilities, like the one involved in the Elk River spill, are only a first step towards prevention.

Hansen also suggests:

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training confirms that a miner died at Mettiki Coal’s Mountain View Mine in Tucker County.

In an email, the state office said 20-year-old Daniel Lambka of Kitzmiller, Maryland, "suffered crushing injuries". 

The statement said the accident happened around 9:10 p.m., Thursday night.

Mr. Lambka had 2 ½ years of mining experience 4 ½ months of which were acquired at this mine. His position was that of general laborer.

Chad Matlick / Dave Mistich / Information provided by the CDC

 

It's now been a week since the chemical spill at Freedom Industries in Charleston leaked roughly 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM into the Elk River and tainted the water supply of some 300,000 residents of the Kanawha Valley and surrounding areas. Many residents remain suspicious of the water quality after the State Bureau for Public Health--in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention--advised pregnant women Wednesday night not to drink water until the chemical is untraceable in West Virginia American Water's system.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The company whose spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians has been cited for violations at a second facility where it's storing chemicals.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise says inspectors found five violations Monday at a Nitro site, known as Poca Blending, LLC, where Freedom Industries moved its coal-cleaning chemicals after Thursday's spill.

Jessica Lilly

While hundreds of thousands of West Virginians are going on five days without water, a school in Wyoming County has not had usable water since September.

The flushing process is underway but without an upgraded system, Herndon Consolidated and those on the Alpoca Water Works lines will have to wait even longer for usable tap water.  

"It’s awful because I mean the water is brown and no one wants to wash their hands in brown water," fifth grader Martina Sizemore said.

“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.

Nikthestoned / wikimedia Commons

The West Virginia Poison Center says calls have not increased since the ban on water use in nine counties affected by Thursday’s chemical leak was lifted in some of those areas.  The majority of residents and businesses affected by the chemical leak remain without clean tap water.

On Monday afternoon, West Virginia American Water began the process of lifting bans on water usage for thousands of West Virginians.

U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration logo

A federal commission found that a mine operator’s failure to notify MSHA and mine rescue teams immediately after an explosion in 2006 was inexcusable. . Twelve miners were killed as a result of the infamous blast also known as the Sago Disaster.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday  that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission overturned a decision by an Administrative Law Judge.  

Jessica Lilly

Residents are pitching in across the state to help out their fellow West Virginians. Churches, schools and even businesses have been collecting items for several days and sending to areas affected by the ban.

As the ban to use water is slowly lifted, several places in Wyoming County are still collecting items like baby wipes, diapers, formula, and of course … water.

"Go without water for a few days and you’ll just how much you miss that water," Charlene Cook said.

U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration logo

The federal mine safety agency says it has finished implementing the 100 regulatory and administrative changes it recommended after West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

The changes stem from a March 2012 internal report examining the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration's actions leading up to April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners. The agency says all recommendations in the report were implemented by Dec. 31.

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.
 

As Gov. Tomblin's state of emergency remains in effect, the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management is ask asking residents of the nine affected counties to contact their local emergency management offices for information on available and safe water resources.

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.

WVU

Charleston native and West Virginia University graduate student Scott Cushing is in pursuit of one of the holy grails of energy sourcing: instead of using gasoline, or other fossil fuels with harmful emissions, he aims to use water and the sun to harvest hydrogen gas.

football helmet
wikimedia / mdscottis

The state Board of Education has given final approval to a rule dealing with how high schools handle sports concussions.

The board approved the rule during its monthly meeting this week in Charleston.

“This is a significant step in how we protect all of our athletes from the short- and long-term impact of concussions,” said West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin.

“Now a certified medical professional must clear student athletes before they can get back into practice or play.”

Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A waste pit in Fayette County does not meet the minimum pit and impoundment standards. The pit is filled with fracking water and other waste from oil and gas drilling. The state Department of Environmental Protection asked Danny Webb Construction to come up with an acceptable plan for the pit.

Community members have been concerned about the waste site for years.

The pit is used to remove sediments from waste before being injected into the nearby underground injection well in Lochgelly. The permit for the well expired in October 2012 and remains in the renewal process.

A Mercer County man who falsified mandatory mine safety reports while employed at several West Virginia mining operations was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.

Craig Belcher, 37, of Bluefield, W.Va., pleaded guilty in July to providing a false statement, representation and certification in a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) document. 

Belcher’s sentence was handed down Monday by Senior United States District Court Judge David A. Faber in Bluefield.

AllVoices.com

Forty-two miners died in the U.S. in work-related accidents in 2013 according to preliminary data.

That’s up from the 36 miners who died in 2012.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration pointed out that fatalities occurred at a record low for the first three quarters of 2013. During the fourth quarter, six coal miners and nine metal/nonmetal miners died in mining accidents, a significant increase from the same period in 2012.

West Virginia lost six coal miners last year, the most in the country. Kentucky had the most metal/nonmetal mining deaths, with four.

Wikimedia Commons

From the W.Va. Dept. of Military Affairs and Public Safety:

Temperatures are forecasted to plunge well below zero degrees Fahrenheit throughout the state over the next 24 hours, and West Virginians are urged to take precautions. The severe cold and dangerous wind chills bring the threat of hypothermia and frostbite from prolonged exposure. Unsafe efforts to stay warm, meanwhile, can lead to fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Experts advise the following:
 

AP

West Virginia ranks second only to New York as the state getting the best deal from Obamacare, according to a new report from the company Evolution Finance.

The report looks at what all 50 states received through the Affordable Care Act. It uses 11 metrics designed to gauge the law’s impact on consumers and each state’s budget.

Rick Haye, Marshall University Communications

West Virginia officials have launched a new online system to help improve reporting by local health departments.

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