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?
Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely
The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.
- Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer
Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
County honors men who gave all in helping their community
The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.
State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less
The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past
Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.
COLUMN: Who would leave animal in sweltering car?
I was standing and debating between two brands of a product in a big box store when I heard a call over the intercom:
“Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”
I shook my head. I hate seeing dogs in cars waiting while their owners shop. About five minutes later, there was another announcement over the intercom.
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- Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely