Health & Science

Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of West Virginia's congressional delegation have joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in questioning a sharp drop in federal funding for the state's black lung clinics.
 
State officials say grants for the federal Black Lung Clinic program were recently capped without notice at $900,000 per state. West Virginia had been the only state to receive more than that annually. The state received $1.4 million last year.

Although it’s only the first step in a long road on Capitol Hill, Senator Joe Manchin’s Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act was passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Thursday.

 “He knows full well what happens when a community is upended because some kind of chemical gets into the drinking water supply and he went to work,” said Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer of Calif.

Surveys soon to be conducted by local, state, and federal officials will gather data on public health and concerns following the January 9 spill by Freedom Industries into the Elk River.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will hold phone survey and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) will conduct a door-to-door questionnaire.

Black lung is a deadly disease caused by exposure to dust underground.
Department of Labor

 Federal funds for black lung benefits in West Virginia were cut about 44 percent. The United States Department of Health and Human Services Black Lung Clinic program now limits awards to $900,000 per grantee.

Adroit Films, LLC

Families of the victims are bracing for another anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Disaster; an explosion that ripped so violently through an underground coal mine in Raleigh County it left metal and sent a blast of air miles from the source.

Former UBB miner and survivor of that fateful day, Stanley “Goose” Stewart remembered during a speech he gave about a year after the blast.  

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Independent researchers working together on the taxpayer-funded WV TAP project have already released an expert odor analysis for Crude MCHM, and have delivered the findings of their 10 home testing pilot project. However, the public has repeatedly called for an understanding of potential health effects from the January spill of Crude MCHM by Freedom Industries.

Foo Conner / Flickr

West Virginia American Water is beginning the long process of changing water filters that were in place during the Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for more than 300,000 people.

Water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan says the process begins Monday and may take eight weeks or longer. She says only two of the water plant's 16 filters can be changed each week while maintaining service.
 
Residents have expressed concern that these filters have not already been changed. Some have demanded they be changed in letters to the company.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation

A private foundation says the well-being of West Virginia's white children is the worst in the country, while black children in the state fare slightly above the national average.

Is the Water Safe Yet?

Mar 31, 2014

In this piece from The Atlantic, Marin Cogan details how little was (and still is) known about MCHM, the chemical spilled into the Elk River by Freedom Industries on January 9 and affected the drinking water of West Virginians across nine counties. The story also highlights failures in policy--from state and federal agencies--such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Evan Osnos of The New Yorker runs through the timeline of January's chemical spill into the Elk River by Freedom Industries, the state's reaction to the situation, and how industry and politics played a part in the decades leading up to the spill as well as in the aftermath.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed a bill that would have banned abortion in West Virginia after 20 weeks.

The Democratic governor said he vetoed the legislation because of constitutionality issues raised by his legal team and attorneys for the Legislature.

As the deadline for getting health insurance approaches, learn what it’s like to go through the process.

A Kentucky basketball great is in a West Virginia federal prison.

A new school in Cabell County, W.Va., could be a model for the rest of the state,

And meet Joe Riley, a Pocahontas County, W.Va., farmer.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Taxpayer-funded researchers say the 10 West Virginia homes they tested each contained traces of a chemical that spilled into their water supply in January.
 
In samples taken Feb. 11-18, chemical remnants were generally about 675 times less concentrated than the federal safe drinking level for the chemical in water. The independent WV TAP group discussed results Friday at West Virginia State University.

West Virginia American Water

West Virginia American Water will begin changing the water filters that were in place during the Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for more than 300,000 people.

Water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said the process will begin on Monday and may take eight weeks or longer. She says only two of their 16 filters can be changed each week while maintaining water service.
 

Ashton Marra

The deadline to sign up for health insurance or Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and the state Medicaid expansion is Monday, March 31, but don’t fret! There is still time to start the application process if you haven’t yet begun.

Michelle Bays, a certified application counselor for Valley Health in Huntington, says there is some basic information you need in order to apply for coverage on the federal healthcare exchange.

As the deadline for signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act approaches audiences in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia will have the opportunity to view the issue of health care through a one-man play called Mercy Killers.

The main character in the play is Joe. He’s from southeast Ohio, works as an auto mechanic and is libertarian in his political views. Michael Milligan, the Juilliard educated stage actor, wrote the play and has been performing it for about a year now.

Nikthestoned / wikimedia Commons

A Virginia Tech study says a chemical that spilled into 300,000 West Virginians' water supply in January stops smelling at a level 47 times stronger than other researchers found.
 
The group that discovered the lower chemical odor level questioned the Virginia Tech team's methods.
 
The Virginia Tech group said in a news release that it detected the chemical in the air with specialized instruments. It used a gas law to calculate the corresponding odor threshold in water.
 

Robb Kendrick / National Geographic

A feature article in April’s edition of National Geographic Magazine examines what America and other key countries are doing to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

The article comes as new regulations from the Obama Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are up for public comment. 

The article assumes that humans are inducing global climate change, an idea that some Republicans as well as the West Virginia Coal Association, still question. 

Wacky Weather

West Virginia American Water

Updated Tuesday, March 25 at 1:15 p.m.: 

Test results from sampling conducted by the National Guard in and around West Virginia American Water's Elk River plant indicate trace levels of MCHM are being added to the water supply during the filtering process. The results come from 42 samples collected--from various stages of the water treatment process--from Friday, March 21 at 6 p.m. through Saturday, March 22 at  6 a.m.

Results indicate raw water from the Elk River and settled water from post clarifiers (an early stage in the treatment process)--both east and west--are returning non-detectable levels of MCHM. However, results from east and west filters range from non-detectable levels to 0.60 parts per billion (ppb). Results from the finished samples, which have completed all stages of the treatment process, range from non-detectable levels to 0.53 ppb.

"PBC Judicial Forum"
Rick Neuhoff / Flickr

A former mine boss is asking a federal appeals court to toss out his conviction for his actions at the West Virginia mine where an explosion killed 29 miners in 2010. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been heavily criticized in their response to the January 9 spill by Freedom Industries and the water crisis that followed. Dr. Tanja Popvic, who represented the CDC in West Virginia at a news briefing in February, has resigned from her post as director of the federal agency's National Center for Environmental Health. Ken Ward of The Charleston Gazette breaks down Popvic's and the CDC's presence here post-spill and the response to her resignation.

Gov. Tomblin's office (@GovTomblin / Twitter)

Child abuse and poverty prevention advocates are questioning Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s priorities.

Among the $67 million worth of cuts from the budget bill Thursday was about a $1 million reduction in funding for programs meant to prevent child abuse and child poverty.

Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State health officials are seeking patient data from physicians who might have treated people affected by the Jan. 9 chemical spill.

The Charleston spill contaminated 300,000 people's tap water in nine counties.

Gov. Tomblin's office (@GovTomblin / Twitter)

Child abuse and poverty prevention advocates are questioning Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s priorities.

Among the $67 million worth of cuts from the budget bill Thursday was about a $1 million reduction in funding for programs meant to prevent child abuse and child poverty.

Governor Tomblin started the 2014 session with a budget that cut funding for programs like In Home Family Education, Family Resource Networks, Child Advocacy Centers and other child abuse prevention programs.

Alabam.gov

A state juvenile commission has a new name, a new chairman and an expanded mission.

In this report form Ken Ward of The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre defends his company's actions following the Jan. 9 spill into the Elk River by Freedom Industries. The water company has yet to change filters at their water treatment plant, although they say work begins on that project April 1 to address public concerns.

Department of Health and Human Resources

West Virginia officials have selected a coordinator to focus on eliminating health disparities for the state's vulnerable populations.
 
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health said it has named Taya Williams as coordinator of the Office of Minority Health.  
 

Researchers involved in a taxpayer-funded, independent water testing project in response to the January 9 spill by Freedom Industries began releasing findings earlier this week. The project, known as WV TAP, is currently attempting to determine the odor threshold for the chemical in question—crude MCHM. They are also investigating the safety factors applied by the CDC in determining how much chemical can be in water and still be called safe to drink.

Dr. Michael McGuire is conducting odor analysis panels to determine at what levels Crude MCHM can be smelled in the water. Results released Monday from an expert panel conducted by McGuire put that number at 0.15 parts per billion (ppb).

Researchers took time Tuesday to answer questions about the first round of studies that have been released.

Researchers involved in the independent, taxpayer-funded testing project known as WV TAP say results from a single expert panel show that Crude MCHM can be detected by an expert human nose when analytical methods used in testing the water indicate non-detect levels.

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