Scott Simonton committee testimony

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Bureau of Public Health and West Virginia American Water Company dismissed comments made Wednesday by a Marshall University professor who said formaldehyde has been found in the water in downtown Charleston.

Scott Simonton, a professor and vice chairman of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board, warned state lawmakers the  cancer-causing chemical is a  breakdown product of MCHM, the chemical that leaked into the Elk River from the Freedom Industries site in Charleston on Jan. 9.

“Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and where it’s most toxic is inhalation,” Simonton said. “I can guarantee you the citizens of this valley are at least in some instances breathing formaldehyde. Taking a hot shower, this stuff is breaking down, formaldehyde, in the shower, in the water system and they are inhaling it.”

West Virginia American Water issued a statement Wednesday night saying Simonton was “misleading and irresponsible” to voice his opinion without all of the facts.

Dr. Letitia Tierney, commissioner of the state Bureau of Public Health, also shot down Simonton’s comments as “totally unfounded and does not speak to the health and safety of West Virginians.”

Simonton said the formaldehyde situation is a “huge cause for concern” and points toward support of long-term monitoring of residents in the water emergency area affected by Freedom Industries. The spill touched off a water emergency that has impacted approximately 300,000 state residents in nine counties.

Simonton said he found formaldehyde while testing the water at a Charleston restaurant in the days after the water contamination. He was testing for a law firm.

West Virginia American Water’s statement also said:

“Procedures for water analysis are carefully prescribed, outlined and certified. West Virginia American Water will continue working with governmental health and environmental professionals and, in conjunction with these professionals, we and public health agencies will make public any reliable, scientifically sound information relating to risks to public health, if any.”

Professor Simonton told lawmakers he was “a little freaked out” by his test results.

“Somebody said ‘just because you can smell it doesn’t mean it’s bad for you.’ They don’t have that data. Nobody has that data,” Simonton said. “We don’t know the inhalation risks on MCHM. We don’t know what the odor threat threshold is on MCHM.”

West Virginia DEP Secretary Randy Huffman told the Charleston Daily Mail Wednesday he was not aware of formaldehyde being linked to the water emergency.

“That doesn’t mean there’s not, we’re just not aware of it,” Huffman told the newspaper.  “I absolutely don’t want to downplay the significance for the potential of formaldehyde in anyway. If it’s there, it needs to be dealt with.”

Simonton told lawmakers the bottom line is there’s so much not known about MCHM and how it reacts in the environment.

“This is a population that has been exposed and we don’t know to what extent,” he said.

Dr. Tierney also said:

“Subject matter experts who have been assisting West Virginia through this entire emergency response state that the only way possible for formaldehyde to come from MCHM is if it were combusted at 500F.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) states formaldehyde is the most frequent aldehyde found in nature and is naturally measurable in air and water. Formaldehyde is created through the normal breakdown cycle of plants and animals. Formaldehyde dissolves easily in water and does not last a long time in water.

“Additionally, formaldehyde is naturally produced in very small amounts in our bodies as a part of our normal, everyday metabolism and causes no harm. It can also be found in the air that we breathe at home and at work, in the food we eat, and in some products that we put on our skin.

“Formaldehyde is found in many products used every day around the house such as antiseptics, medicines, cosmetics, dish-washing liquids, fabric softeners, shoe-care agents, carpet cleaners, glues and adhesives, lacquers, paper, plastics, and some types of wood products.

“We are unaware of the specifics of how this study was conducted, including sampling procedures, protocol and methodology, and would also be interested in the possibility of some other issue affecting the testing of water at the establishment indicated.

“Everyone has been affected by this water crises and public health is of the utmost importance. Mr. Simonton’s has not been part of the integral team of water testing officials from numerous state, local and private agencies working non-stop since January 9. His opinion is personal but speaks in no official capacity.”

bubble graphic

100

bubble graphic

Comments

  • Cesco Estep

    Tierney's statement reminds me of Big Tobacco's arguments why cigarettes don't cause cancer ...all the while delivering formaldehyde into the lungs with each toke.

    In fact Big Tobacco lawyers used the same World Health Organization quotes when formaldehyde was discovered in cigarettes.

    So, if MCHM (or Crude MCHM) didn't cause those toxic levels of formaldehyde, then what did? Or is that patent "protected" from public scrutiny thanks to the Halliburton Amendment (Senate Bill 243) passed by the WV legislature just last year?

  • Levelheaded

    The "fear mongers" are hard at work in the valley and will be for 15 years. There is naturally occuring formaldehyde in human blood.

  • cutty77

    You know whats both Sad and True. You go to your Doc. and he will prescribe some drug for you to take,and you will never blink your eye because you trust your Doc. Thats how stupid of a Society we have become. When i get something from my Doc i look it up on Web.MD and Google it also before i take it. Have some common sense people on all of this.

  • SenSci

    This comment section is scary. You have people who clearly know nothing regarding biochemistry (PhD in Biochemisty) speaking and throwing out information they've learned from a google search with no real understanding of what it means. The fact he could detect it, assuming it is a real find, is significant period because it shouldn't be in the water. When you eat food the substances arrive at cells which are primed with the enzymes to break it down safely. Your skin cells and lung cells are not primed with these same enymes and so context of where the formaldehyde is entering the body matters. Citing evidence it's okay to eat ignores this reality. In any case, they could easily, cheaply and rapidly be determining concentrations of any and all substances using a GC-MS (available in the area). The fact there is uncertainty in reporting this accurately and transparently is evidence of either incompetence or conspiracy. Instead of wasting your time arguing about things most don't understand, why not use this section to discuss what to do? This is a time people need to unite and make a change to ensure this doesn't happen here or anywhere else. It should create a mass demand for research by the people on these chemicals (MCHM) and those with similar ambiguity regarding their toxicity. I mean how can you trust the word of an organization which claims safety regarding toxicity (1 ppm MCHM) based off a rat study in the 90s where they ESTIMATED the 1 ppm from poor data and just dismiss this guys claims as an attention grabber?? True scientists always side with caution...

  • John Pignato

    Why did you delete the following : Thanks for pointing out how omnipresent the carcinogen formaldehyde is.

    Are you suggesting that this makes adding to our carcinogenic load a good thing ? Or just inevitable ?

    If carcinogenic additions come from tap water via contact, ingestion and inhalation are you saying that is unavoidable ? So, just give up ? Ignore it ? Live with it ? Pooh-pooh it ?

    Is that the professional thing to do ? Is it the political thing to do ?

    Does inhalation pose significant risk additions since a volatile chemical like MCHM would lead to exposures during showering and also cooking when the steam goes into the air ? Further, are inhalation exposures especially concerning since the chemical goes right from the lungs directly into the bloodstream. Is this different from ingestion (from food and drinking water), where chemicals are usually metabolized in the liver during digestion, before going into the blood stream. The liver can reduce the toxicity of many chemicals. So, are inhalation exposures always of great concern ?

    Is minimizing additional carcinogenic risks from a new source responsible ?

    Can you say than any additional carcinogenic load is safe ? A good idea ? Can be safely ignored ?

  • Randy Miller

    I knew the headline of Marhall University and scientist in the same sentence was not right.

  • John Pignato

    Thanks for pointing out how omnipresent the carcinogen formaldehyde is.

    Are you suggesting that this makes adding to our carcinogenic load a good thing ? Or just inevitable ?

    If carcinogenic additions come from tap water via contact, ingestion and inhalation are you saying that is unavoidable ? So, just give up ? Ignore it ? Live with it ? Pooh-pooh it ?

    Is that the professional thing to do ? Is it the political thing to do ?

    Does inhalation pose significant risk additions since a volatile chemical like MCHM would lead to exposures during showering and also cooking when the steam goes into the air ? Further, are inhalation exposures especially concerning since the chemical goes right from the lungs directly into the bloodstream. Is this different from ingestion (from food and drinking water), where chemicals are usually metabolized in the liver during digestion, before going into the blood stream. The liver can reduce the toxicity of many chemicals. So, are inhalation exposures always of great concern ?

    Is minimizing additional carcinogenic risks from a new source responsible ?

    Can you say than any additional carcinogenic load is safe ? A good idea ? Can be safely ignored ?

  • Solar

    Oh dont fall for one persons voice it doesnt amount to much..huh . . Just bureacratic nonsense...that arrogantly dumps and owns it all...where is your sense if discovery in finding out the truth? Huh? Sounds strangely like the fema trailers where people allegedly got sick because of their precious chemical alliance in owning it all....with crook tongues...have you lost your mind?

  • Ericka Buechner

    Forget all about the formaldehyde for a moment.

    Go outside and bring in a sampling of your "snow" if you have it.

    Try to melt it into water with some form of heat.

    Residents all over the USA have been doing this for the last few days and are having a Bigger-Than-Snowden-or-Formaldehyde, eye-opening, WTF Moment. It doesn't melt into water when people put flame to it, but it looks and SMELLS like Styrofoam melting. This likely won't be on the evening news. So, if you need some in - your - face, undeniable evidence that our "leadership" is forever lying to the public, and the military industrial complex has never stopped using unwitting citizens as lab rats, you have it here. No money, no Science PHD or lab needed. Just some snow and light.

    I hope someone out there finds some real snow.

    • Solar

      Thankyou so much..You understand.I know from another deminsion in time that the stones DO CRY OUT! They are murderers.....perhaps theyll come face to face with their smelly truth and own it. Its Sickening ...transparent lies...

  • Christopher Stewart

    West Virginia American Water is in no position to dismiss something as "irresponsible and unfounded" when their own oversight has been egregiously lacking or incompetent.

    I personally believe that the owners of Freedom Industries and any similar capitalist polluters should be tried and swiftly executed and their property collectivized. Any claim to private ownership of natural resources should be met with militant resistance.

    These kinds of people are this country's only real enemies--we're not "in it together" with these parasites, and the sooner we create a democratically collectivist society, the better. The alternative is to die in the poison of greedy criminals who's lives and ideologies are nothing but a curse to decent people.

    • Solar

      Sorry but havent you noticed the military is also a lying corporation and in other countries to fight unknown things.....its akwats been the same paradigm.

      Defend what soiil?.....youre looking at a criminal alliance...and thats the jest of it.

  • John Pignato

    Thanks for pointing out how omnipresent the carcinogen formaldehyde is.

    Are you suggesting that this makes adding to our carcinogenic load a good thing ? Or just inevitable ?

    If carcinogenic additions come from tap water via contact, ingestion and inhalation are you saying that is unavoidable ? So, just give up ? Ignore it ? Live with it ? Pooh-pooh it ?

    Is that the professional thing to do ? Is it the political thing to do ?

    Does inhalation pose significant risk additions since a volatile chemical like MCHM would lead to exposures during showering and also cooking when the steam goes into the air ? Further, are inhalation exposures especially concerning since the chemical goes right from the lungs directly into the bloodstream. Is this different from ingestion (from food and drinking water), where chemicals are usually metabolized in the liver during digestion, before going into the blood stream. The liver can reduce the toxicity of many chemicals. So, are inhalation exposures always of great concern.

    Is minimizing additional carcinogenic risks from a new source is irresponsible ?

    Can you say that any additional carcinogenic load is safe ? A good idea ?

  • Kyle

    We have officials who can't tell you when the leakage started, that did not have an emergency contingency plan in place and didn't have a proper monitoring system in place tell us basically nothing. This chemical spill should have been anticipated in a worst case scenario and a plan of action in place before the company opened for business. Everyone from the Congressmen to the officials for the company should be held accountable!

  • Ed Wouldn't

    Sounds to me like we have an environmental crusader attempting to use lack of evidence as evidence and attempting to needlessly alarm the public.

  • rick

    More misinformation by non involved people who want to get on the bandwagon. I believe the water is safer than it was prior to this spill due to the focus on the water and the work done. Many water systems have worse problems than this around the State. I work in emergency management and have been using the water since this event started.

  • Rich

    This guy was hired by a law firm.
    No credibility.