ATLANTA, Ga., — West Virginia’s January water crisis captured the attention of the nation’s news networks for a day or two, but it has been on the minds of local health officials across the country ever since. Thursday, West Virginia’s leading responders to the contamination in January were part of a panel discussion in Atlanta before the National Association of City and County Health Officials Conference.
“Everybody wants to know not only what happened here, but be able to understand what they can do in their communities to better prepare to respond to something like this,” said Kanawha Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Rahul Gupta.
The most groundbreaking revelations in the plenary session came from Dr. Andrew Whelton who headed the WVTAP project following the chemical spill at Freedom Industries. New information about a National Science Foundation Study was posted to the Whelton Group’s website ahead of the session.
“CRUDE MCHM was much more toxic to the freshwater indicator organism Daphnia magna than what Eastman Chemical Company found in their 1998 study.”
The information further stated:
“By applying a 48 hour exposure test, an effective concentration (EC50) of CRUDE MCHM of about 50 mg/L and a No Observed Effect Level (NOEC) of 6.25 mg/L. In contrast, Eastman Chemical Company’s 1998 report cited an EC50 of 98.1 mg/L and NOEC of 50 mg/L. The lower the EC50 and NOEC, the less amount of CRUDE MCHM is needed to cause toxicity.”
“Further complicating toxicity data reported by Eastman Chemical Company is that on their own CRUDE MSDS sheets from 2005 and 2011 the NOEC value reported was actually 40 mg/L, not 50 mg/L as they reported in the 1998 toxicity testing final report.”
Gupta and Whelton were joined by state Adjutant General James Hoyer and officials from the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy. Gupta said the organization wanted to spotlight West Virginia’s water crisis to learn from the response, but he said he was glad to get the chance because of the opportunity to keep his call for extensive medical monitoring on the front burner.
“We’re working and showcasing what we’ve done to the nation as we speak this week,” said Gupta. “Hopefully, it will get the attention it needs to have long term medical monitoring in a meaningful manner.”
Gupta said the audience and location matters. Atlanta is the home of the Centers for Disease Control and many of the CDC personnel were among those listening at the conference.