CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a letter to President Barack Barack Obama Friday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical spill and resulting nine-county water emergency caused $61 million in estimated losses to the economy.
The governor is seeking a federal disaster declaration from the President and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Please accept this letter as a formal request that you declare a major disaster for the State of West Virginia,” the letter said.
The letter goes on to list specific costs of the emergency which the governor dates from Jan. 9 through Jan. 20.
“The flooding of the chemical Crude MCHM into the water supply of 300,000 customers was unprecedented, and received national and internal attention,” the governor wrote. “The threats to health and safety were immediate, and the impact of the spill has been continuous.”
The state received immediate help with bottled water from FEMA when the emergency began but a federal disaster declaration has been more difficult to gain. The governor had to appeal original roadblocks put up by FEMA.
“A declaration of a major disaster and associated further assistance will lessen our significant financial burden, and will enable us to continue to respond to each new aspect of this event as it arises,” Tomblin said in his letter to the President.