CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Earl Ray Tomblin says the state has spent more than $900,000 — so far — on supplies of bottled water and its distribution in the parts of nine West Virginia counties where a Jan. 9 leak of two chemicals contaminated the tap water for 300,000 state residents.

Up to now, Tomblin said that cost has been covered through his office’s contingency fund, but he said there are not unlimited dollars available.  That’s why, he said, it may be necessary to dip into the Rainy Day Fund.

“That’s obviously an option that we have to look at as a place to get the money to pay for the water as well as the distribution of the water out there,” Tomblin said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline” as public water distributions resumed in parts of the affected region.

Since the start of the water emergency on Jan. 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided 423 tractor trailer loads of bottled water to West Virginia.  The bottled water that was being distributed on Friday had been moved from areas of low demand to areas of high demand.

West Virginia American Water Company was also securing 20 additional tractor trailer loads of bottled water for distribution, bringing the company’s total bottled water contribution during the water emergency to 33 truckloads at an estimated cost of $132,000.

At the same time, the company agreed to again move tankers of water, filled in other areas, to specified locations for the weekend.

There were no indications of how long the water distributions would continue.

The demand for bottled and tank water continues because of ongoing questions, among residents, about the quality of the tap water more than three weeks after crude MCHM and PPH leaked from a storage tank belonging to Freedom Industries into the Elk River, the water source for the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.

Dr. Letitia Tierney, state Bureau of Health commissioner, said, throughout the water emergency, state officials have been making safety determinations about the water based on the best data available, even though she admitted there is little information about the effects of long-term exposure to MCHM on humans.

“We wish there was as much scientific research on this chemical as there are on other chemicals,” she said.  “But what we have done and continue to do is to look at the best available evidence and make the best decision we can.”

Water testing continued on Friday and Tomblin said WVAW, assisted by the West Virginia National Guard, was close to announcing levels of crude MCHM were at non-detectable levels or well below a ten parts per billion threshold, considered an extra-cautious threshold, throughout the extensive system.

“If you think of a milk tanker that you see on the highway that holds 76,000 gallons of milk, ten parts per billion would be six drops,” explained Dr. Tierney.  (Tierney later clarified she meant 7,500 gallons, not 76,000 gallons.)

Despite that, the question for thousands of West Virginians remains — is the water safe?

“Can we guarantee, 100 percent, that every gallon of milk or every box of food that’s bought is 100 percent safe?  Or that a person will not be run over by a bus today?  No, we can’t,” said Tomblin.  “But what we’re doing is using the best information from scientists and professionals that we have available to us to put out to the public.”

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Comments

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  • Pure Water Warrior

    The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), and the American Red Cross published a document titled “Food and Water in an Emergency“; it recommends only three ways to purify water during an emergency – boiling, chemical disinfection and distillation.
    In fact, the CDC published a document titled “Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use“, and found distillation systems to be one of the most effective methods of drinking water treatment.

    Steam distillation is the only purification method that will consistently provide 99.9% pure water.

    PureWaterWarrior.com

  • ericka

    Freedom should be responsible,but our people have let companies like freedom do what they want to us for a job. Our state laws say what they did was legal and our state laws tell them that they have no legal responsibility to clean up thier disaster. Our government and all the people who hold their purse strings are the only "experts" that say this water is safe. Everyone else in the scientific field says different. If our government does not tell them with laws and regulations that they can't destroy our resources and they obviously feel no moral obligation to us then we can all go die of cancer from thier chemicals or black lung or a roof collapse or black damp or any of the other things they sell us out second hand for. Coal keeps the lights on in some places but they never said anything about the water.

  • DWL

    I wouldn't trust a word cousin Earl Ray said either.

  • Susan Barnes

    The State shouldn't be paying for the water Freedom Industries shoud be !

  • WVUDAD

    The Kanawha rivers average flow is 105,000 gallons a SECOND.

  • WVUDAD

    Think of it like THIS, the average flow of the Elk River is 24,000 gallons a SECOND, 1.5 million gallons a MINUTE, 90 million gallons an HOUR, there have been TRILLIONS of gallons of water flushed through the river since, so that tanker load of not very toxic substance ( NO dead fish) has been diluted to the point of non existence.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Like so many other times in our past, the people of this state are faced with a business held unaccountable, so-called "leaders" who pass-the-buck and set on their hands, an irresolute and impotent state government, and its citizens doubtful and fearful of the safety of a basic necessity.

    Time to face facts: this crisis is ongoing, it's not over by a long shot, and this is going to ripple through what is left of the economies of a nine-county region long after the hacks have continued to assure everyone that all is well.

    And we dare to seek development?

  • tw eagle

    someone in the media should dig though the corporate paperwork & find out all the silent partners & the owners of freedom industries . . . gotta be some tight connections to W Va government . . . this is a business that services the coal industry . . .
    gotta be some politicos tied to freedom somewhere along the ownership lines . . .

  • BigMo

    Earl Ray is dumber than a sack of hammers. Is it any wonder that the State is dead last in everything.

    • Mason County Contrarian

      Perhaps it is time for a governor with roots in either panhandle. Having traveled both extensively, whether anyone wants to admit it, there is a different mindset to be found.

  • jim

    I fail to see why the state is financially responsible for Freedom's liability. I feel quite sure that's liability insurance is for. Everyone else has to have it to operate....soooo, what's the deal

    • Bill Hill

      You are absolutely correct, Freedom should be responsible for the cost associated with their mess. They should have liability insurance and also if they don't or have an inadequate amount, then the company's and owner's personal assets should be liquidated to cover the costs. The last place the money should come from is the taxpayers. I'll bet you if this is how industry was held accountable spills, pollution, and other property damage wouldn't exist.

      • I'm honest at least

        +1 if freedom had any marbles at all they would have done more to help. Instead they do nothing........

        • Mason County Contrarian

          I feel as if this level of corporate chicanery would not be tolerated elsewhere. I could be wrong but for some reason this whole situation seems acceptable in a job-starved state such as ours.

          That sound we heard was the other shoe of resolve dropping, dropping in the name choosing political shenanigans over public safety and confidence.

          But who needs water anyway? Right?

  • jeff wisdom

    First of all, every state has weight limits for trucks. Twenty-six states maintain minimum federal gross vehicle weights (weight of truck and load) of 80,000 pounds, while 19 states permit trucks of 105,000 pounds or more. Michigan tops the list with 115,000 pounds. That said, overload permits can be purchased in several states, and there may be seasonal weight restrictions and/or bridge weight restrictions in rural areas. About 80 percent of milk trucks are tractor-trailers with the remaining being straight chassis tank trucks. A typical straight chassis truck will have a 4,000 to 5,000 gallon tank, while a typical trailer will hold 7,000 to 8,000 gallons. The final complication in these answers is based on where the trucks are coming from and how far are they going. A lot of milk is moved long distances into and out of the Southeast for seasonal balancing. States like Florida require that long-distance hauls have tractors with sleeping cabs. This additional weight on the tractor reduces the amount of milk that can be transported and still make the road weight limits on the trucks. Mark Stephenson, Cornell Program on Dairy Markets and Policy

  • Kelly

    How about, and of course I just spitballing here, we bill Freedom for the costs and have the courts liquidate assets to cover. Also, mediately call in all stAte tax breaks and loans.

  • Chris

    A milk tanker holds about 8,000 gallons of milk. Not 76,000 gallons.

    • Ed Wouldn't

      She corrected herself, however think of it this way ... that tanker is what spilled into the river.

  • The Nose Knows

    Do not drink the water. Do not use any of this water to make ice.
    It WILL make you sick. The water still stinks!!!!
    It is NOT safe to drink!!!!!!!!!!!!!