CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The independent researchers hired by the state to test the water coming from the Elk River for contamination said they’re playing catch-up. Dr. Andrew Whelton, the lead researcher of the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, told reporters Friday no matter what they find it comes too late.
“This work should have been done 10 years ago, right after September 11 when a lot of the efforts were going into how should we recover our drinking water system that’s become contaminated, what protocol should be in place,” Whelton said. “So 10 years ago this work should have been done.”
However, it wasn’t and now Whelton and his colleague, Jeff Rosen, the president of Corona Environmental Services, say they have limited time to find the answers.
“We need to do this rapidly because the people of West Virginia deserve to have answers,” explained Rosen.
WV TAP team members began collecting water samples the impacted counties Feb. 12 and wrapped up on Feb.19. Two homes in Kanawha County and one each from the rest of the counties, with the exception of Jackson, were tested. Ninety samples were taken from each home. They have now been sent to UCLA to undergo a battery of tests.
“Water samples were collected from kitchen faucets and bathroom tubs, both hot water and cold water,” said Whelton. “We think that’s really important because there’s a lot of questions out there as to do chemical levels differ in hot water to cold water.”
Those results will be back within a week to three. However, the information won’t be immediately posted online to www.wvtapprogram.com. Whelton explained they plan to wait to until they have all the data back and have analyzed it before it will be made public.
Meanwhile, Rosen said the cost of WV TAP has gone beyond the original $650,000 set by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
“At UCLA they have committed three laboratories where graduate students have been working. They’ve taken those laboratories over to make rapid progress on this,” according to Rosen.
Rosen and Whelton have also contacted some of the world’s foremost experts on toxicology to join the project. None of that, said Rosen, comes cheap.
“We have gone back to the governor’s office with a request for an additional $112,000. The purpose of that will be to help with the additional analysis,” explained Rosen.
Whelton said the initial nine home samples will help them create a template to then go into hundreds, possibly thousands, of homes in the impacted counties, to test the tap water and find out if it’s contaminated and how much MCHM is in the water.
Whelton made a promise to those impacted by the water crisis during the press briefing at the state DHHR.
“By the end of this project, which is moving very rapidly, we will have some answers for you,” Whelton promised.