CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Administrator Dr. Rahul Gupta applauded the House of Delegates Thursday for passing the chemical spill bill.
Several amendments were added to the bill Wednesday night. That included requiring long-term medical monitoring of those exposed to the chemical MCHM, that leaked from Freedom Industries into the Elk River and eventually into West Virginia American Water’s system.
Gupta said a continual monitoring program is key for the years ahead but it currently comes without a funding source.
“Right now it remains as an unfunded mandate and we know what happens to unfunded mandates. They die out,” he said.
Gupta would like to see the final bill with enough funding to carry out medical monitoring for the short term and the long term in all nine counties impacted, by the chemical leak.
The health administrator said there are two populations that need medical monitoring.
“It’s important not only to follow people who have already reported their complaints but also follow the segment of the population who have been exposed and have not reported their complaints.”
He said medical monitoring needs to look at not only toxicity levels but also the exposure time to the chemical.
“We know the leak was detected on January 9. What we don’t know is was this going on longer than that,” explained Gupta. “We will wait on the investigations and must not assume at this point that January 9 was the only day that people were exposed!”
The chemical spill bill also requires a registry of what’s in above ground storage tanks, annual inspections and West Virginia American Water to install an early monitoring system at its Elk River plant.
The bill is now back in the Senate.