CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he had to try a second time to get FEMA to change its decision about not declaring nine West Virginia counties in a major disaster declaration.
“Obviously I was disappointed,” the governor said last week just after FEMA administrator Craig Fugate sent Tomblin a letter with his final decision.
Shortly after the Jan. 9 chemical spill into the Elk River that contaminated drinking water for 100,000 West Virginia American Water customers, Tomblin applied for federal assistance in paying for the costly disaster. But he was told the water crisis did not meet the definition of a “major disaster.”
That’s the same response he got last week from Fugate. However, the governor disagrees.
“The fact that it impacted 300-thousand people in West Virginia, I think put it to the level of being a national emergency,” he stated.
FEMA is providing some funding. Government entities are being reimbursed for the money they spent in response to the emergency. But that’s as far as it will go.
Tomblin said he understands “the rules are the rules” and promised his administration would look at other federal agencies for possible funding.