CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Claiming the public deserves the truth, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he’s planning an investigation into the chemical leak that’s left thousands of West Virginians without usable tap water for almost a week.

“One of our primary concerns will be that West Virginians have answers to their questions about what happened, why it happened, and how this could have been prevented,” Morrisey said Tuesday.

“We need to make sure this never happens again and that responsible parties are held accountable.”

The investigation will include interviews with state officials, along with those with West Virginia American Water Company and Freedom Industries, the source site for the crude MCHM (4-methylcyclohexane methanol), a chemical that seeped into the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant. That leak prompted last Thursday’s do-not-use water order in parts of nine counties.

“The mission is to have an unbiased, independent inquiry into what happened,” said Morrisey, whose office isn’t alone in probing the leak.

Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District, launched a federal investigation into possible criminal actions tied to the chemical spill the day after the leak was discovered.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a study of the long-term public health risks associated with crude MCHM. Officials said little is known about the long-term effects the chemical can have on humans.

“I am making this request of two separate agencies with the goal that no stone will go unturned and no jurisdictional confusion will leave any key question unanswered,” Rockefeller wrote.

“The Hill” reported Tuesday the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold hearings on the Charleston chemical spill in early February.

Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has agreed to schedule a field hearing in Charleston on the chemical spill and response.  As of Tuesday night, a date for the hearing had not been scheduled.

At the State Capitol, Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D-Berkeley) said members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources, a group he co-chairs, would conduct a full review of the chemical leak.

“This whole series of events is unacceptable,” said Unger in a statement. “While the response to this crisis has been commendable, the Legislature is determined to work to ensure that this never happens again.”

Unger said he also plans to introduce legislation that provides oversight of storage facilities, like the one Freedom Industries has along the Elk River, to better protect water resources.

So far, at least 19 lawsuits connected to the chemical spill have been filed in West Virginia circuit court against both WVAW and Freedom Industries.

Anthony Majestro, an attorney with Powell and Majestro LLC in Charleston, is representing some of the plaintiffs and said it was important to move quickly.

“In cases like this, where we know we have big losses, we know we have parties we believe that are at fault, it’s important to get in, get the process started and get it done right,” he said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“A lot of the people who are calling and asking us to represent them are calling and telling us about their very serious economic problems they’re facing, businesses, employees, because of the lack of their ability to get clean water to operate their businesses.”

WVAW officials could not say on Tuesday when the do-not-use order would be lifted for all of the company’s customers in the nine affected counties.

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Comments

  • wvnative123

    Ask Morrisey about the Spruce Mine permit lawsuit, the cross-state air pollution lawsuit, the EPA tailoring rule lawsuit, and others he is involved in. When running for Attorney General he spoke at Tea Bagger rally on June 2, 2012 and said "To me, EPA is a four-letter word". http://www.statejournal.com/story/18683677/local-tea-party-rallies-in-charleston To investigate the problem, all he has to do is look in the mirror.

  • wvnative123

    “One of our primary concerns will be that West Virginians have answers to their questions about what happened, why it happened, and how this could have been prevented,” Morrisey said Tuesday. “We need to make sure this never happens again and that responsible parties are held accountable.”

    What a bunch of BS. Morrisey is one of responsible parties that need to be held accountable. He has sued the EPA telling them repeatedly to frack themselves. He is opposed to environmental regulations. Why doesnt some reporter ask the question - so are you for or against Guberment regulations?

  • LEE ARTHUR

    We are at the mercy of big money . Wake up people , things need changed and only the common person can do it.

  • Mike

    Inspections are required for chemical production facilities, but not for chemical storage tanks. A tank storing chemicals along a river has no laws on the books that require inspection. Then John Boehner says today no new regulations are needed as a result of what happened. Now how stupid is that? Hard line Republican leader trying to protect corporate profits while people suffer and get sick. The man is disgusting.

    • Jim

      Law makers in WV have every right to pass laws to take care of that. You should be asking the Democrats in this state why they have not in the past pass laws to protect us. Quit looking to the federal government for help when the problem is in our own back yard.

  • Fairport

    AG is just getting in the mix trying to drum up votes for the next election and protect the businesses that polluted the water. He is out for businesses like his drug companies! he is at the same lowly level as holgersan to me!

  • John Pignato

    A few overlooked points:

    1. Is there no monitoring of fresh water influent to identify dangerous substance before they get into the water treatment plant ? Is this true for water treatment for water that goes to the White House ? the Pentagon ?

    2. What agency (Health Departments ?) approves the siting of a drinking water intake ? Maybe HOMELAND SECURITY SHOULD TAKE OVER THE FUNCTION.

    3. In West Virginia, the DEP director said that MCHM used in the field to wash coal is then put back into the rivers by PERMITS ? Really ? Someone should look at the approved discharge limits. Are they below 1PPM ?

    4. Why did not WVAW close its water intake when MCHM was detected and let the chemical pass ?

    5. What happens to MCHM collected in cesspools and septic systems ?

    6. Why do we allow chemicals to be sold and used when we do not know their human health effects ?

    7. Does the LD50 for fat head minnows suggest that 1PPB is more appropriate then 1PPM as a limit for MCHM ?

  • Benthere

    I'm glad the AG is pursuing this issue. When I heard that Cincinnati was shutting down their water intake for two days until the chemical plume passes, it begs a lot of questions from American Water. Why did they not shutdown the system and go to their reserve tanks? As I read about this chemical there was no way the carbon beds could have removed the contaminate. How could American Water not have understood this? Instead of slapping everyone on the back for damage control the top management in American Water should have their collective asses hung. It was their job and responsibility to protect the drinking water system. They failed miserable and at the least should resign NOW!

    • WVWorker

      I believe it is the DEP's responsibility to protect our drinking water sources. If that isn't their primary responsibility, why do we even need the DEP.

      • Michael

        Do you think the business providing water shouldn't be accountable for the water they provide?

        • WVWorker

          Do you think the people providing the water should be responsible for policing the chemical storage facilities? This disaster was caused by Freedom Industries, not the water company. They had no way of forseeing what was going to happen.

    • wv4evah

      Excellent posting Ben

  • Michelle P

    We need more government, less government, more regulations, less regulations, more inspections, less government intrusion, more government bureaucracy to stop people from fraud, less government bureaucracy to stop killing business.

    Yep, I'm dizzy.

    How about one investigation and aid for those individuals/businesses that have been without water. No more, no less.

  • mook

    This goes farther than the owner. Where are the regulations that stipulate who,what, and when these aged tanks get there stability checked.( got any holes) The gov. is quick to point fingers,but it may be pointing at themselves for lack of regs or inspection!!

  • Dale

    How many investigations are needed? One would think the US Attorneys office should be responsible for gathering all the information from the appropriate agencies/sources and presenting this information to a Gr. Jury for consideration. What expertise would the lay people making up Senator Unger's oversite group have? Sounds like more waste of our tax revenue to me!

    • wv4evah

      The US Attorney's office will investigate to see whether criminal charges should be filed. The State Legislative investigation will determine what laws need to be changed. Ever hear of Separation of Power?

    • Wowbagger

      Unger has been the water guy for several years since he pushed water use legislation that claimed the waters of West Virginia for the state and the citizens, or something to that effect.

      This is part of the reason that Morrisey is involved I imagine. Freedom Industries clearly polluted our collective property. This also makes withdrawals from the Ohio River by industries on the Ohio side problematic since West Virginia actually owns the river. Essentially the state of Ohio is using our water without compensation. These withdrawals are significant by the way!

      • jss

        State of WVa does not own the water. All the people of the USA own the water. WV owns a geographical boundary. Please start doing your homework, it is never too late

        • Wowbagger

          Wrong!

          You should do your homework!

          To quote the West Virginia Code:

          §22-26-3. Waters claimed by state; water resources protection survey; registration requirements; agency cooperation; information gathering.
          (a) The waters of the State of West Virginia are hereby claimed as valuable public natural resources held by the state for the use and benefit of its citizens. The state shall manage the quantity of its waters effectively for present and future use and enjoyment and for the protection of the environment. Therefore, it is necessary for the state to determine the nature and extent of its water resources, the quantity of water being withdrawn or otherwise used and the nature of the withdrawals or other uses: Provided, That no provisions of this article may be construed to amend or limit any other rights and remedies created by statute or common law in existence on the date of the enactment of this article.

          Here's the link to read the whole Chapter:

          http://www.legis.state.wv.us/WVCODE/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=22&art=26

          Read it and LEARN!

          Typically West Virginia was one of the last states to take this step so after the initial passage of the law in 2004 West Virginia claimed both the channel at the date of record and the water. It was amended in 2008.