CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state DHHR and other agencies are looking to take the next step in response to the Jan. 9 chemical leak and water emergency that impacted approximately 300,000 state residents in parts of nine counties.
DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling announced a partnership Tuesday with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to take the data that’s been collected about the chemical MCHM and how it impacted residents and seek funding from outside sources to do studies on possible long-term health impacts.
“We’ve collected the data and I think it gives us a great platform to go forward to various federal agencies and begin to say, ‘What’s next? Tell us what’s next,'” the cabinet secretary said.
That could include more animal studies on the impact of MCHM or even medical monitoring for residents impacted by the water contamination.
“We can continue to collect data but really what kind of long-term monitoring that needs to be done depends on further study,” according to Bowling.
The new state law, Senate Bill 373, requires the DHHR’s Bureau of Public Health to work with the federal Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies for the “purpose of creating, organizing and implementing a medical study to assess any long-term health effects resulting from the chemical spill.”
Sec. Bowling said Tuesday she along with Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Rahul Gupta would be going on the road to meet with federal agencies to seek funding for the long-term studies. She said there’s still not a lot known about MCHM and its impact.
“So with the question mark out there-what else can we do? Who’s out there that can help us and come in and do some additional studies to give us more information and give us guidance?”
The Bureau of Public Health is required to report its efforts to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2015.
Thousands of gallons of MCHM spilled into the Elk River Jan. 9 less than a mile from the intake of West Virginia American Water Company’s Kanawha Valley Plant. The state put a Do Not Use order in effect for several days after the spill.