West Virginia lawmakers request help regarding Clarksburg water problems

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation have sent letters to public officials regarding elevated lead levels in the Clarksburg Water System and the possibility of providing services to impacted residents.

The requests from U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in addition to Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., follow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Bureau of Public Health issuing orders stemming from increased levels.

Around 18,000 Clarksburg residents and 38,000 people receive water from the water system, which has around 8,500 connections.

The EPA called on the Clarksburg Water Board to identify homes and businesses with lead service lines and asked the city to provide affected residents with drinking water or filters. The Bureau for Public Health last week issued a notice of violation against the board for failing to notify the public about the risk of lead exposure.

Manchin, Capito and McKinley on Friday wrote to EPA Administrator Michael Regan to request the agency assist with the emergency by providing grants, collaborating with local and state agencies with sampling activities, and issuing bottled water and point-of-use filters to impacted people.

“The requests and questions highlighted above will go a long way toward assuring Clarksburg’s residents that their drinking water is safe,” the lawmakers said.

McKinley sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. Jim Justice, in which he urged state officials to work with the Clarksburg Water Board on addressing the matter. McKinley suggested utilizing coronavirus relief funds for sampling efforts and water line replacement, and mentioned a possible request for an emergency declaration if there are elevated lead levels throughout the system.

McKinley also expressed empathy with the Clarksburg Water Board, noting a short period local officials had to reach out to customers. He said the state Department of Health and Human Resources needs to work with the Water Board on complying with the state order, and added the board should not face a $5,000 fine for each day of noncompliance.

“While I will continue to work with EPA to identify opportunities for federal aid for the CWB, it is important that the WVDHHR do the same,” McKinley added.

People cannot remove lead from water by boiling it. Parents of children younger than six should speak to their family’s pediatrician about the possible need for precautionary blood lead testing.

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