WV TAP releases final report; Gov. Tomblin says long-term health - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

WV TAP releases final report; Gov. Tomblin says long-term health studies still needed

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More research needs to be done and long-term health effects remain a mystery.

The West Virginia Testing and Assessment Program assigned to do research by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin released a final report on its findings regarding MCHM on June 26.The research group says many data gaps remain in the knowledge of physical properties, reactivity, treatability and health effects of MCHM – the chemical that spilled into the Elk River on Jan. 9.

“We appreciate the fact that the citizens of West Virginia have been put through a difficult time,” said Jeff Rosen, President of Corona Environmental Consulting. “This is an important study we have learned a great deal from and it has been heard around the country.”

Rosen, project manager to WV TAP, said when people were smelling the crude MCHM in their water, it was there. However, he said it was a safe level and significantly below the non-detect level determined by scientists.

“We believed the exposure to all people was safe at 100 parts per billion, ten times lower than what the CDC said but 100 times higher than the highest concentration the team measure in in-home samples they took,” he said. “The highest concentrations we observed were 6 parts per billion,” Rosen said.

“The most important outstanding question that remains is what are the long-term effects,” Rosen said. “That should be the highest priority.”

Rosen said while the team would like to see more sampling done in homes, it is a lower priority than determining long-term health implications.

The WV TAP team said many of the lingering questions are not only critical for West Virginians to know, but for the entire country.

Tomblin said with no tests done, the state needs to be able to tell the residents there are no long-term health effects of MCHM.

“Many of these questions are critical not only for West Virginia and for MCHM but for the entire country for future spills including other chemicals,” the report release said. “The following research should be considered and funded by a wider group that may include states, the federal government, industry as well as organizations that fund research aimed at protecting public health.”

Tomblin said WV TAP represents the completion of an independent, comprehensive fact-finding mission that “outlines a number of recommendations” for state, federal government and the scientific community.

“This, I think, will serve as the blueprint for communities and water systems throughout the country and around the world,” Tomblin said. “We had no blueprint in January.”

WV TAP said its research was conducted in order to understand if the water was safe for all purposes including being used for “drinking, cooking, washing, flushing.”

Part of that research consisted of doing in-home studies on the nine county affected area of the state.

The report also sought to answer: “what were the concentrations of crude MCHM that people could smell; was there any evidence that components of crude MCHM had been converted into other compounds that might be associated with health effects or odors in the water; what concentrations of the contaminants spilled into the river that were safe for all intended uses by all members of the population and what were the concentrations of spilled chemicals present in people’s homes?”

The team also said the Elk River spill was a “call to action” for all water utilities with hazardous chemicals within a close proximity to source water.

They offered the need for utilities to better prepare for a spill including sampling water, what equipment might be needed, safety and emergency response as well as knowing of agencies that can be contacted and brought in as a resource in the event of disaster.

The report pointed to the fact American Water Works Association (a non-profit scientific and educational association based in Denver, Colorado) has developed a “robust Source Water Protection Standard.”

The documents, according to WV TAP, offer standards and approaches for evaluating threats to water used specifically for drinking.

Tomblin said he hopes the report and research will help water companies have a better understanding of how to deal with chemical spills.

“I think we’ve made some great progress,” Tomblin added.

Secretary Karen Bowling of the Department of Health and Human Resources said public health officials are trying to put together information that tells federal agencies it is in the best interest of the country and state to do additional studies.

“There really does need to be some further long-term testing done on animals so that we understand betters,” she said. “That would be a great thing for all of us to know and it’s up to our federal partners.”