CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Rahul Gupta told state lawmakers Wednesday it’s time to begin pushing on the federal Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies to finance long-term studies on the impact of the Jan. 9 chemical spill and water contamination that followed in parts of nine West Virginia counties.
Gupta said this is all about restoring public confidence.
“What will it take for people to start drinking their water again and start trusting their water? It’s very, very important for the health, trust and economic standpoint to really get it right. That needs to be studied a little bit better than just guessing about it,” Dr. Gupta told lawmakers.
Thousands of gallons of the chemical Crude MCHM spilled into the Elk River at the Freedom Industries site in Charleston less than a mile from the intake at West Virginia American Water’s Kanawha Valley Plant. A Do Not Use water order was put into effect for several days after the spill.
Long-term monitoring would likely be expensive but Gupta said the state needs to do everything it can to push the CDC to implement a public health tracking and long-term monitoring program in the impacted population.
Gupta said other federal agencies need to do the basic research that could possibly answer a host of questions.
“What is the chance of cancer? What is the chance of birth defects? What is the problem with target organs? Does it go through the liver? If it does does–does it flow through? Does it stay in? Does it accumuulate?”
Gupta said animal studies could help answer those questions.
Gupta is joining state DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling in an effort to recruit the help of the federal agencies. The pair is planning road trips to meet with the agencies.