CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Kanawha-Charleston Health Administrator Dr. Rahul Gupta called the governor’s West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, or WV TAP, a good first step to answering questions about the safety of the water after last month’s chemical leak.
“We just need an answer, yes or no,” Gupta said as to the safety of drinking the tap water.
Dr. Andrew Whelton, a water expert from the University of South Alabama, is heading up the independent home testing program. The plan is to test water in homes in the 9-county region impacted by the Jan. 9 chemical spill on the Elk River.
Step one includes going into 10 homes, two in Kanawha and one in the other impacted counties, and checking the status of their water more than a month after the water crisis.
A second round will include more than 100 residences.
“Hopefully those 100 will be a good and fair representative sample. Hopefully there will be enough space left, if that doesn’t satisfy and answer all the scientific questions, we could do some more [testing],” according to Gupta.
He stressed he still has a lot of questions about the safety of the water coming from the tap.
“I have serious concerns whether it’s the hot water. Is it their tank? Why is it being smelled in the hot water compared to the cold water? I’m not expecting all the answers will come out, of this, but it’s a good first step,” said Gupta.
During a congressional field hearing held in Charleston Monday, no one on a panel of experts would say the water is 100 percent safe to drink. Gupta said the state Bureau of Public Health should be able to tell West Virginia American Water customers that their water is more than “acceptable.”
“We’ve not had a lot of science behind the decision making over the last month or so. This is a good time to start developing that science for an event of historic proportions,” Gupta said.
The health administrator added the quicker someone can prove the water is safe to drink the sooner life will begin to get back to normal or at least a new normal.