CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chairman of a congressional committee conducting a field hearing at the Kanawha County Courthouse in Charleston Monday on the past month’s water emergency said it was frustrating that no one would say the water is safe.

Congressman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the lack of commitment from those testifying probably had something to do with the many lawsuits already filed in connection with the Jan. 9 leak of MCHM at the Freedom Industries site just up the Elk River from the West Virginia American Water Company Kanawha Valley Plant. The leak touched off a nine-county water emergency.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso said there’s just hasn’t been enough scientific of MCHM to allow the ‘safe’ answer.

“If you are going to give a scientific answer to this you have to have scientific data on which you can base your statement of safety,” Moure-Eraso said.

(Read testimony from U.S. Chemical Safety Board here.)

West Virginia Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito asked both WVAWC President Jeff McIntyre and state Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Tierney about the safety of the water. Tierney said there’s not an easy answer.

“That’s in a way a difficult thing to say because everybody has a different definition of safe,” Teirney said. She added she believes the water can be used as normal because the levels set by the Centers for Disease Control and the more stringent testing level by the governor’s office have both been met through the system that covers parts of nine West Virginia counties.

McIntyre said there’s always something in the water but that doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.

“We monitor for mercury, we monitor for arsenic, we monitor for pesticides and if anyone thinks that every water treatment system has absolutely zero of all of these chemicals and compounds they are mistaken,” McIntyre said. “There are limits set and as a water purveyor we work within those limits.”

Congresswoman Capito, Congressman Nick Rahall and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin all criticized Freedom Industries for not appearing at Monday’s hearing. Capito called it was “very telling.” Manchin said Freedom has “no credibility.”

Other information to come out of Monday’s hearing included:

–U.S. Chemical Safety Board lead investigator Johnnie Banks said two holes were found in the Freedom tank. He said one was 19-cm and the other 10-cm.

–Dr. Tierney said the state was in shock when it heard from the CDC several days after the emergency began that pregnant women should not drink the water. Tierney said she had originally been told by the agency it would be otherwise once the safe levels were met.

–State DEP official Mike Dorsey said it’s possible another pool of MCHM might be underneath the tank that leaked. He hopes to get clearance to have the tank removed later this week.

–State Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said all schools had tested at the Non-Detect level. He said most odor problems had come from dishwasher machines at the schools. “When the water is heated up the odor seems to be greater at that point. That’s the only thing that’s been seen as a potential cause,” Gianato said.

–Chairman Shuster took the unusual step of allowing members of the general public to ask questions at the end of the hearing. Seven residents were given two minutes each.


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  • BIM Job

    It is obvious what these people are trying to do. By saying they can't say the water is safe, they think they are protecting themselves from liability. I would argue that by continuing to provide a product to consumers after admitting they can't say it is safe, they are being grossly negligent.

  • D Napier

    Several people need to be fired from their jobs.
    Several elected officials need to be voted out of office.
    Several people need to be arrested.
    Take a drink of water in Charleston or jump off the New River bridge - what a great comparison.

  • in da stickes

    Back to the bottled water stat!

  • Larry

    I'd love to know the percentage of people that are in a frenzy over this, not drinking the water, wanting to sue everyone, who smoke, drink to excess, or abuse drugs.

    • jfk

      good point

    • Brian

      Are you saying the standards for those people should be lowered because they are less than you?

      Is that how we'll do things now? Charge those who watch too much tv more for electricity? Or charge people who enjoy a weekend drive more for gas because of the "waste"?

      $100 says you do things to excess, you're just too arrogant to admit it. What an ass.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      Larry, I'm guessing you omitted from your list any vices that might prevent you from receiving potable water in the dystopian future for which you apparently pine.

      • Larry

        What I am trying to say Uncle Fatty(another meaning for "unctuous"), is that I am certain there are thousands of people doing those things, causing certain harm to themselves, but they are not using the water, which may or may not pose a very, very slight risk to them.

      • Brian

        Sorry, Uncle. Should have read your response before writing mine, you said it much better than I.

  • John

    No one is going to say the water is safe. Ever. Get over it. Lawyers have all parties dummied up. Everyone will have to make their own decisions as to use bottled water the rest of their lives or eventually drink up. It's time to flush "Almost Heaven...." Down the toilet along with the MCHM.

    • Aaron

      Google "what's really in your bottled water" John, you'll see that most bottled water starts out as tap water. Years ago, I was in Tyler Mountain Water's plants on Tyler Mountain and then when they moved to Rock Branch and at that time, they used water from West Virginia American Water.


    • Aaron

      You sure you want to stick with the bottled water John? Most bottled water starts as tap water, including Tyler Mountain Water, which used to come directly from WV American Water.

    • Wowbagger

      All the bottled water people really claim is that their water met the same standards as those set by FDA for soft drinks when the bottles left the bottling facility and that, if stored at room temperature or below for a reasonable amount of time the plastic bottles will not introduce an unacceptible level of a number of organic chemicals into the water.

  • gus

    Freedom Industries filed reports with Homeland Security stating the chemicals being stored and their location, yet the State did nothing with the information. Jimmy Gianato is to blame here just as much as Freedom industries... and his answers today to Senator Manchin (who appointed him to this position) indicate he still has done nothing but begin to map water intakes. PATHETIC good old boy network.

  • Silas Lynch

    Who chose a Pennsylvanian elected official to come down here and sort this thing out?

    I know West Virginians think of themselves as “below par” with the rest of the country but certainly, we can find a one or two Marshall or WVU Grads that can sort this thing out for us….

    Trust me; those wanting an over-reaching EPA to facilitate the death of coal are loving every agonizing moment of this.

    • Mark

      He's the Chairman of the subcommittee, as chosen by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

    • realitycheck

      As to the first two sentences of your comment, huh??

  • GregG

    Dog and pony show. It's just a matter of time until we are back to bowing at the feet of big business.

    • Whatamoroon

      Where did this statement come from? You are so high on liberalism you must be snorting it through a straw. Get off that stuff man. It will make you miserable and ruin your life.

  • WW Glasser

    I have to ask:

    Has no one in the “Chemical Valley” ever done a toxicity test on a spill ?

    How about the DEP, the DHHR, the EPA or the CDC ?

    Step forward if you have ever HEARD of toxicity testing.

    Tests on water fleas, minnows and other animals can greatly increase our knowledge of MCHM-PPH.

    Likewise effects on types and combinations of plumbing can be tested.

    With knowledge we can show and tell the public FINDINGS !

    Or, do you want to stay in the world of appropriate – but not necessarily safe ?

    Come vacation in Charleston … our water is CDC appropriate !

  • Lester

    The "water crisis" coverage is getting very annoying to those of us who were not affected. (approximately 1,500,000 people) Sort of like the Goldy auto commercials.

    • jfk

      after further review Lester you are a @zz

    • Jason412

      Wow. I wasn't impacted, and I don't find it annoying, so speak for yourself.

    • realitycheck

      gee sorry, the 300,000 of us who are dealing with this will just shut up. so sorry to have annoyed you.

    • jfk

      well hopefully you don't have to worry about water where you are at but to your comment DON'T WATCH OR DON'T READ.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      There seems to be plenty of Justin Bieber coverage on the internet. Perhaps you'd find that pleasantly diverting. After all, that kid seems pretty self-absorbed too.

    • Avid Outdoorsman

      Put yourself in those people' shoe's; I feel for them!

      This could happen to ANYBODY. If you are not effected count your blessings. And open your eyes to what is possible anywhere.