What can we say about the Elk River Crisis that hasn’t already been said?
Just a little history for those who might have missed the past three weeks:
On Jan. 9, crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol spilled from a tank owned by Freedom Industries and spilled into the Elk River in Charleston, upstream from the West Virginia American Water intake and water-treatment facility. A “do not use” water ban was in place from Jan. 9 through releases by zones starting on Jan. 13. The spill affected nine counties and 300,000 residents of the affected area.
Freedom Industries is a company that distributes chemicals to coal companies for processing and was founded in 1992. Just prior to the spill, on Dec. 31, 2013, Freedom Industries merged with three other companies, Etowah River Terminal, Poca Blending and Crete Technologies.
We know how it affected the residents of West Virginia. We watched people waiting in line for hours to get bottles of water to drink and cook with. We watched as a very large portion of southern West Virginia came to a dead halt, including the state capital and the legislative session. We collected water, easy to heat and prepare meals, waterless sanitizing wipes and sprays and more, and we loaded them into trucks and personal vehicles and headed down south.
We know what happened. And there are so many questions that won’t be answered for months or even years. There is not full resolution, and there may not be for some time.
But we asked our readers to weigh in on what they found to be the most disturbing news that came out of the Elk River contamination emergency. Readers logged on and cast their votes on www.timeswv.com last week. And here’s what they had to say:
* The tank could have been leaking long before it was reported — 14.16 percent.
On Jan. 9, it is estimated that 7,500 gallons of the chemical spilled into the Elk River. Apparently, the leak started before 8 a.m., as residents began to call officials after 8:15 a.m. to report a sweet licorice-like smell in the air. Firefighters and the Department of Environmental Protection eventually tracked down the smell by 11:10 a.m. Freedom Industries officials say their employees noticed the spill at 10:30 a.m., and they drained the tank and cleaned up the chemical surrounding the tank. The DEP said that they found a cinder block and a 50-pound bag of chemical absorbent powder covering the one-inch hole at the bottom of the tank.
So, how long had it been leaking? We may never know. But Ken Ward Jr. of the Charleston Gazette reported that five years ago, residents complained of a similar smell in that area, though the DEP said that it was an unfounded claim.
* No one is quite sure the physical impacts of ingesting or using the water or the parts per million of the chemical deemed safe — 19.47 percent.
One thing we do know is that very little is known about the impact of MCHM has on the human body or even how it’s going to affect the aquatic life in the Elk River and its tributaries. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that if ingested, the chemical could cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, reddened/burning skin and/or eyes, itching and rashes.
* This shows how vulnerable our water system is — 31.86 percent.
So many have said that the next terrorist attack could come through contamination of water systems, which is why a great deal of money was invested post-9/11 toward securing facilities. Fairmont was among them. We can all see now how easy it would be to harm hundreds of thousands by placing a chemical in the source water of a treatment plant.
* Freedom Industries’ tanks had not been inspected since 1991 — 34.51 percent.
State environmental officials told CNN that Freedom Industry facility only had to have an industrial storm water permit and that it was last inspected in 1991. There was also an investigation in 2010 because of a smell there, that same licorice smell, though inspectors did not find anything. It was visited again in 2012 to make sure that no additional air or water quality permits were needed. Again, there are so many questions we just don’t have answers for. We hope they come.
In the mean time, let’s talk about something way, way less serious. Justin Bieber got into quite a bit of trouble while drag racing while under the influence of pills, drugs and alcohol last week in Florida. What should we tell the kids?
Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.
What can we say about the Elk River Crisis that hasn’t already been said?
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law
West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.
Strong Fairmont General Hospital badly needed to serve our region
Mere minutes often matter when it comes to emergency health care.
That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.
When patients need the services of health-care professionals, having family and friends close at hand is often essential, and their presence may even lead to a better outcome.
COLUMN: Fairmont General Hospital vital part of community
There’s nothing better than holding a newborn baby. It gives you a little feeling that not only is everything right in the world, but this perfect little human represents hope of a future where things will be better than they are today.
I had that blessed opportunity to hold that hopeful future in my arms last week when I visited my dear friend Jen and her newborn son Tristan at Fairmont General Hospital.
- More Opinion Headlines
- Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated