Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has lifted a state of emergency for nine counties in West Virginia that were affected by a chemical spill into the Elk River by Freedom Industries that tainted the drinking water supply of 300,000 residents.
Hours after a spill of the coal processing blend of MCHM and PPH was detected on January 9, nine counties surrounding the state’s capitol city of Charleston were placed under a state of emergency. Seven weeks and one day later, Tomblin has lifted the state of emergency. He’s directed state agencies to continue monitoring and responding to public health and safety concerns.
Immediately following the spill, restaurants and some local businesses were forced to close by order of the local health department. The CDC recommended that the water was appropriate for use at levels of MCHM below 1 parts per million. This week, the federal agency was finally comfortable in saying it was safe. The state established its own testing threshold at 10 parts per billion.
West Virginia American Water began lifting the do not use ban four days after the spill and advised residents to follow a detailed flushing procedure. Some residents in the area continue to report an odor of black licorice in their water.
An independent in-home testing project is currently underway to determine odor thresholds for MCHM, as well as study the health risks associated with the chemical. Taxpayers in West Virginia are funding the nearly three quarter of a million dollar project.