CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The head of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department says the water crisis in Toledo, Ohio this week is just another wake up call about the vulnerability of our country’s water systems.
“I think that these are once again reminders that we need to start having a dialog nationally about what to do to make sure our drinking water supply, especially for larger, urban areas, is safe and secure at all times,” according to Dr. Rahul Gupta.
He knows more than a little about water contamination. Dr. Gupta led the charge, after the Jan. 9 chemical spill in Kanawha County, for change. Three-hundred thousand residents in parts of nine counties were under the Do Not User water order from the state through West Virginia American Water Company after MCHM from Freedom Industries leaked into the Elk River. Gupta has been working to determine the best way to make sure another water crisis doesn’t happen.
Gupta said the Freedom Industries spill and the algae bloom in Toledo don’t have a lot in common on the surface. However, when it comes to the impact, they are very similar.
“The timing of the incident, the suddenness of the incident, as well as the nature of the incident that caused our issues is different but to the public the outcome and the suffering is quite similar,” according to the doctor.
Just like here in West Virginia, Toledo residents were not able to use their water for anything other than flushing toilets. Millions of gallons of water had to be shipped into the area and questions were flying as to how the problem got so bad.
Dr. Gupta said he wasn’t surprised another water crisis popped up here in the U.S. so quickly.
“We predicted seven months ago that these events are going to happen more often than not and we need to be prepared, not just as Charleston or as West Virginia but as a nation to better handle the safety and security issues as they come to our drinking water supply,” stressed Gupta.
Chemicals and algae aren’t the only things, said Gupta, that can endanger our water supply. There are natural disasters, even terrorism. He believes it’s time for national leaders to take water security as seriously as West Virginia and Toledo.