The Charleston Gazette / Chris Dorst

A Month Later, Many West Virginians Still Fear Their Water

Even though officials lifted the "do not use advisory" weeks ago, many residents worry the chemical leaked into their water supply is still a danger.

By Steven Sparkman | February 16, 2014

It's been a month since officials first told the residents of Charleston, West Virginia, that their tap water was safe to drink. But many residents still won't drink it, in part because the water still has a detectable odor and because state officials seem to be sending mixed messages.

On Jan. 9, chemical company Freedom Industries announced the leak of up to 5,000 gallons of crude MCHM, a chemical mixture used in coal processing, and that an unknown amount had made it into the water supply. The company later raised its estimate to 10,000 gallons leaked. (Via RT)

Officials imposed a "do not use" advisory on tap water for 300,000 people, which was gradually lifted over 10 days. (Via CBS)

But in the following month, residents continued to notice the distinctive licorice smell associated with the chemical emanating from their tap water, and many continued to suffer from nausea, dizziness and rashes.

And at a recent Congressional hearing, no official was willing to go on the record as saying the water is safe to drink. Independent testing reported by The Charleston Gazette detected MCHM in 40 percent of the homes surveyed. (Via Charleston Daily Mail, The Charleston Gazette)

What's more, residents have since learned that the long-term health effects of MCHM on humans have never been studied. And that's just one of many unanswered questions. (Via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

"How does it adhere to or become part of piping? What is the difference between PVC and copper?"

"We don't know how is it excreted, how is it metabolized, where is it stored in the body, even for animals." (Via WOWK)

So it's safe to say West Virginia authorities have lost the trust of many residents on this issue, who simply don't know what to believe. 

"The reason I'm angry is all the lies. ... Nothing they could say would ever convince me this water is ok." (Via The Guardian)

The West Virginia water crisis has spurred calls for stricter regulation of chemical storage facilities. Senate Democrats have begun working on a bill that would require emergency response plans and more frequent inspections of facilities. Freedom Industries' Charleston facility had only been inspected once in the past 20 years. (Via Office of Sen. Joe Manchin)

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