CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia National Guard has wrapped up collecting and testing water samples in the nine counties impacted by the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical spill.
The Guard tested its last hydrant in the Queen Shoals area of Kanawha County Monday. State Adjutant General James Hoyer said the results there and from all schools in the nine county area fall below the strict standards set by the state.
“We have tested all of the schools, in the effected area to a result that is non-detect at 2 parts per billion,” explained Hoyer.
That’s 500 times lower than the initial 1ppm the CDC released as safe to drink. Hoyer stressed if there is a new question or concern about water in a school, he will make Guard members available to sample and test the water.
During the height of the water crisis 776 members of the Guard were working 24/7 taking samples and testing them to find out the detectable levels of MCHM. Hoyer said that added up to a huge effort.
“The amount of man hours put in, just by the National Guard alone, is enormous.”
There are some other big numbers to come out of the water crisis response. The Guard took 3,000 samples of water from Jan. 9 through March 3. The cost, just to the National Guard, to sample and test the water, as well as distributing drinkable water, is at $750,000. Then there’s the amount of water involved.
“We distributed 19.5 million bottles of water, over 8.7 million liter containers of water and close to 3 million gallons of bulk water,” according to the Hoyer.
He said they got a lot of help from police and fire departments, local emergency management agencies and volunteers to hand out the potable water over the impacted areas.
“The last I looked, we had driven over 33-thousand miles to provide those deliveries.”
Hoyer felt good about the response.
“I think, by and large, West Virginians responded pretty well to this,” said Hoyer. “Now are there things we can improve upon? Absolutely and that’s what we’re going to do in the after-action review.”
Hoyer explained similar reviews after major events like the 2012 Derecho and Super Storm Sandy helped the state deal with this disaster.
“We’re going to continue to try to improve upon our ability to respond to and protect the citizens of the state of West Virginia.”