West Virginia University Hosts Two Panel Discussions on Elk Rive - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

West Virginia University Hosts Two Panel Discussions on Elk River Chemical Spill

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For the 300,000 West Virginia residents affected by the Elk River Spill, January 9 was the day that changed life as they knew it, and state officials, educators, and media are doing their part to make sure a similar situation never happens in our state again.

Over a hundred miles from Charleston, in Morgantown, the water crisis was the hot topic on Monday night, as West Virginia University's College of Law and the WVU P.I. School of Journalism each hosted panel discussions on the ways it changed the future.

"It's very important to learn from this historic event because this was unprecedented - the largest tap water contamination in the nation's history," said Dr. Rahul Gupta from the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

It's been nearly three months since thousands of gallons of chemicals leaked into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply for hundreds of thousands of residents, and the conversation isn't going away anytime soon.

"Think: Why did this happen? What can we do to make sure it doesn't happen again?" asked law student Joshua Ash.

On Monday night, Gupta joined three other panelists to discuss the effects of the water crisis and the impact of water regulation in the future.

"Not only do we learn the immediate impact, but we learn the short and long term impact, both in our vulnerable populations like the pregnant women but also to learn if it is related to other birth defects, cancers..." said Dr. Gupta.

And some of those affected people happen to be journalists, who have worked to get answers from officials. 

Those experiences led to another panel discussion on Monday night, just a few miles away - this one focusing on the media coverage of the Elk River Chemical Spill.

Reporters from the Capitol and other members of the media reflected on the power of social media and being able to share the stories of those affected.

"Everyone has an individual experience, and their experience becomes part of the larger storytelling process. So what we're able to do is see a tweet from someone, see a Facebook post from someone, then find out how many other people are sharing their same experience," said April Kaull, anchor for WV Media LLC., the parent company of WBOY-TV, WOWK-TV, WTRF-TV, WVNS-TV and The State Journal.