CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday he had received the final report from the WV Testing Assessment Project.
“Today’s WV TAP report represents the completion of an independent, comprehensive fact-finding mission that outlines a number of recommendations for state government, the federal government, the scientific community and the private sector,” Tomblin said. “This final report represents the work of dozens of people and the cooperation of hundreds of others. I appreciate the extremely thorough work of the WV TAP team.”
The research, which began in February, was based on four questions the group asked regarding what the definition of “safe” water would mean: what were the concentrations of crude MCHM that people could smell; was there any evidence that components of crude MCHM had been converted into other compounds that might be associated with health effects or odors in the water; what concentrations of the contaminants spilled into the river were safe for all intended uses by all members of the population; and what concentrations of the spilled chemicals were present in people’s homes?
Tomblin said the lessons learned from the report will be a guide should a similar event happen in the future.
“There’s several recommendations in [the report] not only for the state, but the federal government, for private enterprise, to assure that this kind of accident, if it happens again, could be handled in an appropriate way,” he said.
Some of the recommendations from WVTAP include consulting independent experts as soon as possible should similar situation arise and water utilities should keep an inventory of chemicals in the area which could spill into their system and set up an early warning system to detect those chemicals.
After the initial spill on Jan. 9, so little information was available about MCHM, officials were not sure where to turn for answers. Another reason Tomblin wanted the WVTAP study conducted was so they would never be short on answers for the chemical again.
“I think there was such a lack of information, first on the chemical itself, a lack of extensive studies on MCHM or PPH,” Tomblin said. “We were grasping for information during those first several hours. It seemed like all the stars aligned in the wrong way for us.”
The study also recommended a long term study on the health effects of exposure to the chemicals. WVTAP does not have the resources to conduct such a study themselves at the time.
Tomblin agrees this is something the state should pursue in steps.
“I think the first thing we need is to have animal studies done through several generations to show if there’s any long term effect of exposure to humans.”