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Update on West Virginia's Elk River Chemical Spill

Tim Kiser

In January, West Virginia’s Elk River was contaminated by a chemical spill from a nearby coal processing plant, affecting 300,000 local residents. People were without water for days. Now months later, is the water safe to drink? 

WNPR's Where We Live reported on the spill in February, and recently checked back in with West Virginia Public Radio's David Mistich. 

Mistich said that an independent research team was put together in February, funded by tax payers and hired by the governor.WV Tap has been doing research, analyzing the water, and most recently released a report on "in-home testing."

"The highest levels of the chemical found... in the ten-home pilot project was 6.1 parts per billion," Mistich said. This is much lower than the CDC threshold of 1000 parts per billion, and West Virginia's screening level at 10 parts per billion. Mistich, a Charleston resident, feels safe drinking the water himself, but he said "there is an entire faction of people who are not there yet."

In response to the spill, the West Virginia state legislature has passed a bill thatwould regulate above-ground storage tanks

As for the company that was responsible for the leak? David Mistich said they've heard "very little" from them throughout this process. The attorney for Freedom Industries' president Gary Southern says the head of the company"bears no fault"for the incident. Freedom Industries is now in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. 

Mistich discussed the spill on Where We Live:

For more reading, check out The New Yorker's Letter from West Virginia"Chemical Valley: The coal industry, the politicians, and the big spill."

Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.

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