State of Recovery

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03-11-14 @ 7:14PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN APPEALS FEMA'S DECISION TO DENY FEDERAL ASSISTANCE FOR EMERGENCY PROTECTIVE MEASURES

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (March 11, 2014) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today appealed the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deny West Virginia’s request for federal assistance and emergency protective measures in response to the January 9 Elk River chemical spill.

“No one could foresee the far reaching impact the Elk River chemical spill would have on the 300,000 West Virginians in the affected nine-county area.  It was an unprecedented disaster—and I believe it is of such severity and magnitude to warrant further public assistance.  The financial impact has been significant and certain aspects will continue to demand public assistance including ongoing testing, which will help provide much needed information to the scientific and public health communities,” Gov. Tomblin said. “I strongly urge FEMA to reconsider its denial for federal assistance and emergency protective measures in West Virginia.”

Gov. Tomblin requested FEMA modify the current federal Emergency Declaration on January 27, 2014.  FEMA denied the governor’s request on February 10, 2014.

As the current Emergency Declaration stands, public agencies that have made expenditures to distribute supplies and meet the needs of those in the affected areas are presently denied access to Category B Emergency Protective Measures funding.  A modification to the current declaration would allow eligible applicants in the affected counties to receive FEMA support, including reimbursement.

To read Gov. Tomblin’s appeal in its entirety, click here.

 

02-24-14 @ 4:56PM
ANOTHER SET OF SCHOOL WATER TEST RESULTS MEETING STRINGENT STANDARDS
Issued by the West Virginia Department of Education

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  – So far ninety schools impacted by the recent chemical leak into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia have met the latest safety threshold set by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last week called for additional water testing to confirm that all schools in the affected counties by the chemical leak on Jan. 9 are under 2 parts per billion (ppb).

The West Virginia National Guard is revisiting more than 100 schools in Kanawha, Boone, Clay, Cabell, Lincoln and Putnam counties. The results returned so far are indicating a non-detect level at the 2 ppb standard. Non-detect means that there are no traces of MCHM at the 2ppb screening level. After testing thousands of lab samples, chemists are now able to confidently test at 2ppb.

In prior weeks, the National Guard tested water in all schools at a level of 10 ppb which is 100 times more protective than Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) recommend level of 1 part per million. The 2ppb is 500 times more protective than the CDCs recommended level.

Schools in the impacted counties have continued to provide hand sanitizer and bottled water to students and food is being prepared with bottled water.

Results for the remaining schools are expected in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, the Rapid Response Team established earlier this month to address issues in schools will continue to answer and investigate calls.

All results are being posted on the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management website: http://www.dhsem.wv.gov/Pages/WV-American-Water-Emergency.aspx

For more information contact Liza Cordeiro at (304) 558-2699.

 

02-20-14 @ 6:33PM
GOVERNOR TAKES PROACTIVE STEPS TO FURTHER STUDENT SAFETY FOLLOWING WATER CRISIS
​Issued by the West Virginia Department of Education

 
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education is working with the West Virginia National Guard following a directive from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Tomblin called for additional water testing to confirm that all schools in the counties impacted by the chemical leak on Jan. 9 are under 2 parts per billion (ppb). 
 
“We have been testing water in all of our schools at the governor’s more stringent level of 10 parts per billion which is 100 times more rigorous than Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s  recommend level of 1 part per million,” said Adjutant General James Hoyer. “After testing thousands of lab samples, chemists can now confidently test at 2ppb.  This additional safety factor is one more example of how the governor has gone above and beyond the federal recommendations to bring added confidence to parents, students and staff to ensure the highest level of public safety.” 
 
It is expected that the testing will occur over the weekend and results should be back by mid-week. Any school that tests above the two parts per billion will be re-flushed and retested. Moving forward, the Rapid Response Team established earlier this month to address issues in schools will continue to answer and investigate calls. 
 
"Student safety continues to be our top priority,” said Gov. Tomblin. “As a parent, I understand that families need the additional peace of mind that comes with this testing.” 
 
In the meantime, schools will continue to provide hand sanitizer and bottled water for drinking and cooking. 
 
“I applaud the governor for taking these additional steps,” said Jim Phares, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools.  “We are taking every precaution because we know that parents trust us to keep their children safe.”
 
For more information contact Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at 304-558-2699 or 304-807-6988.
 
 

02-18-14 @6:24PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN, SECRETARY BOWLING REQUEST CDC CONDUCT FURTHER HEALTH STUDIES

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling today sent a letter to Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to formally request the CDC, or its partners, immediately conduct further epidemiological and/or toxicological studies and address ongoing population surveillance or monitoring as a result of the January 9 Elk River chemical spill.

"I am committed to the health and well-being of West Virginians and believe there is a pressing need to further study the potential health effects resulting from exposure to water contaminated with crude MCHM and PPH,” Gov. Tomblin said. “It is critical this study is funded and that work begins immediately.”

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
  
 

02-12-14 @ 8:35AM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN TO APPEAL FEMA DECISION

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced that he is appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deny West Virginia's request for emergency protective measures through the emergency declaration issued in response to the Kanawha Valley water crisis.
 
FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator Elizabeth A. Zimmerman told Gov. Tomblin in a Monday letter, "Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the event was not of such severity and magnitude as to warrant grant assistance under this emergency declaration."
 
"I am extremely disappointed by FEMA's initial response, and I share the frustration and anger of West Virginians who have endured this crisis," Gov. Tomblin said. "I have personally contacted FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to express my concern over this decision. We are committed to providing the detail necessary to demonstrate the assistance needed by the public safety agencies that have provided support to citizens since this crisis struck more than one month ago."
 
"I promised the people of West Virginia that I would look out for them and do all that I can to protect their health and well-being," Sen. Jay Rockefeller said. "It's a solemn oath I take very seriously. For that reason, I am working with our delegation to appeal FEMA's decision. My priority remains getting the state the resources it needs from FEMA and the White House to assist West Virginians during this ongoing crisis."
 
"It has been more than a month since this disastrous chemical spill tainted 300,000 West Virginians' drinking water and there are still countless questions left unanswered. It is bad enough that hundreds of thousands of people continue to worry about the potential long-term health effects of these chemicals, they shouldn't have to also worry about the economic impact to their families' bottom lines, their businesses and their communities," Senator Manchin said. "I thank Governor Tomblin for appealing FEMA's decision to deny direct funding assistance to the nine affected counties. Whenever our country faces a national disaster, our government steps in to support our citizens in their time of need. This time should be no different. I urge FEMA to reconsider their decision and work as a partner with the people of West Virginia as we continue to clean up and come out of this disaster stronger."
 
"It is essential that all resources necessary be made available to protect the health and safety of our people.  I will continue to urge FEMA to provide our State with the assistance it needs to address the consequences of the spill." said Congressman Nick J. Rahall.
 
West Virginia has 30 days to file its appeal. The letter from Deputy Associate Administrator Zimmerman can be found here.

 

02-11-14 @ 4:45PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN DIRECTS HEALTH OFFICIALS TO MOVE FORWARD WITH HOME TESTING PROJECT

Independent, scientific experts to work with Bureau for Public Health

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has directed the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, in cooperation with local and state health officials, to move forward quickly to put together a home testing project, West Virginia Testing Assessment Project or WV TAP, for residences in the affected nine-county area.  The Bureau for Public Health has engaged independent, scientific experts to:

• Initiate an initial assessment for testing water at the tap in homes—different types of plumbing materials found in homes will be included in the scope of this study.

• Initiate an in-depth analysis to determine the odor threshold for MCHM.

• Establish an independent panel of experts to evaluate the safety factor for MCHM.

Gov. Tomblin has committed $650,000 from his budget for the initial work.  The governor has also reached out to Senators Rockefeller and Manchin as well as Congressman Rahall and Congresswoman Capito to ask for their support of federal assistance to conduct ongoing research addressing short-term and long-term health impacts in addition to the fundamental research about this chemical.

Letitia Tierney, MD, JD, Commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and State Health Officer, said the weekend's work has been a “positive step forward toward restoring public confidence.”  She praised the cooperation of the local, state and federal stakeholders involved.  Tierney said she was particularly pleased outside, independent experts have been engaged to offer guidance on how to proceed.

Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, Executive Director and Health Officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and the Putnam County Health Department, praised the cooperation between all involved. “We're looking at a short-term plan to immediately restore confidence and a long-term plan to determine the health effects, if any, in the future," Gupta said. "I am happy local health departments are involved in the process.”

Harry Tweel, MD, FCCP, Executive Director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, praised Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his continued interest in maintaining a healthy water system and said the ongoing work represents more than a 30-year partnership between local health departments and the state and federal government.

Dr. Andrew Whelton and Jeffrey Rosen of Corona Environmental Consulting will lead the independent team.
 
Dr. Whelton is a professor at the University of South Alabama who has been studying drinking water from affected homes and their residential plumbing systems.  Dr. Whelton was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant for this research.  Dr. Whelton has advanced degrees in environmental and civil engineering.  His 14 years of experience includes designing and overseeing safe drinking water systems for the U.S. military as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army.

“I commend Governor Tomblin for stepping up and being proactive,” Dr. Whelton said. “What has happened in West Virginia is unprecedented in U.S. history. The tasks he has assigned the team promise to yield significant contributions toward safeguarding public health not only in this affected area but nationwide and around the world.”

Jeffrey Rosen, President of Corona Environmental Consulting, LLC, will provide guidance as the project manager. Mr. Rosen will help to coordinate all statistical design, activities, logistics, and management associated with the project.  Mr. Rosen is a Senior Scientist and Statistician with over thirty years of experience in conducting environmental research. Mr. Rosen has been supporting the drinking water community for over 25 years and has worked on a wide range of topics including regulation development, on-line monitoring, homeland security and information system development.
 

 

02-05-14 @ 6:10PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN JOINS U.S. CDC, U.S. EPA, STATE AGENCIES AND DEPARTMENTS TO PROVIDE UPDATE ON ELK RIVER SPILL 

Governor directs team to evaluate home testing options
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today joined federal partners from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as West Virginia State Agencies and Departments to provide a detailed update regarding the Elk River chemical spill. The update included what has been accomplished, the current status of the spill response, and the actions the team plans to take moving forward. Gov. Tomblin later directed his team to evaluate home testing options.
 
Gov. Tomblin's remarks, as prepared, are below.
 
"Good afternoon. I'd like to first thank our state partners who are joining us: Secretary of DEP Randy Huffman; Secretary of DHHR Karen Bowling; Dr. Letitia Tierney, Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health; General James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard; Jimmy Gianato with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; our 9 county emergency management offices; State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Phares and our county superintendents; local health officials, and I'd like to recognize our federal partner who have been with us every step of the way: Dr. Tanja Popovic, (Acting) Director of the National Center for Environmental Health; Dr. Ed Murray, Director, Division of Toxicology and Human Health Sciences; Shawn M. Garvin, EPA Regional Administrator; Bill Arguto, Chief, EPA Drinking Water Branch; Dennis Matlock, EPA On-Scene Coordinator; and Mark Ferrell, West Virginia/EPA Liaison.
 
"Like you and all of the 300,000 West Virginians I am frustrated and angry. I share your concerns about the water crisis, as does my team here in West Virginia, the national experts we have depended upon for guidance and the federal partners who are standing with me today. 
 
"As your Governor, I'm committed to ensuring your health and safety. I do not take this commitment lightly. All of my efforts these last three weeks have been focused on protecting your health and safety. 
 
"You have shared with me personally and through emails and letters your concerns and frustrations. I've heard you - I have been listening.
 
"We-my emergency response team, my public health team, our scientists, the National Guard, and our federal partners who are with me here today-have been working day-in, day-out since January 9th to fix this problem and to restore normalcy.
 
"We all have the same question - Is my water really safe? This question is justifiable and cannot be ignored. 
 
"I applaud the courage of those who have attended the public hearings and town hall meetings. Your comments and concerns are appreciated. And, I understand your frustrations, your need for assurances and your call for action.
 
"You will hear-in depth and from the experts-about the water testing protocol we developed and implemented just hours after this crisis hit, and have continued daily since that night. I value and trust the opinions of the experts standing with me-and those who have assisted our efforts. 
"We are here to explain-in thorough detail-what we've accomplished during the last three weeks, where we stand now, and what actions we will take as we move forward. 
 
"After receiving notice of the West Virginia American Water DO NOT USE order on the evening of January 9th, and declaring a State of Emergency, our National Guard took immediate action working with the CDC and the EPA to develop testing protocols and procedures as well as water use and safety guidelines. 
 
"We made hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities our number one priority to ensure critical care of our most at-risk residents. We tested all of our schools and provided additional water to keep our kids in the classroom and utilized federal resources to direct water to homes and businesses in need. 
 
"This event is most important a public health issue AND it is also an environmental and economic development issue. I am committed to creating and retaining good West Virginia jobs. We must do this and have clean water and a healthy environment. It is not an either or proposition.
 
"Science suggests the water is safe - and our efforts will continue as we keep testing. I have asked WVAM to continue testing throughout its distribution system. This additional testing and the conclusions will continue to be posted online. We recognize that transparency promotes confidence.   
 
"In addition, I have directed our bureau of public health to continue testing the raw water and the finished water at the water plant for the foreseeable future. I also directed the bureau of public health to certify that West Virginia American Water change its filters at the plant as quickly as possible. We will continue our due diligence in making sure that effort happens quickly. 
 
"While the bureau of public health requires testing of more than 60 contaminants within our drinking water system, I have directed WV American Water to include MCHM and PPH to the list they must test. And I expect WVAW to make available additional water to their customers who request it.
 
"It will be a month tomorrow when this chemical spill happened. And with everything we have done-and everything we will continue to do at the end of the day, we all just want to know: is our water safe? We will not lose sight of our goal of keeping your water safe. 
 
"The foremost scientists in their fields across the world-some of whom you will hear from today-have advised they do not anticipate any adverse health effects. Your concerns are understandable and we will continue to address them head-on."
 
 

02-02-14
WEST VIRGINIA SCHOOLS RECEIVING GOOD NEWS AFTER A SECOND SET OF FLUSHING WATER SYSTEMS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) learned that after re-flushing five schools have achieved a non-detect level of MCHM in their water systems. These five schools join the nearly 100 schools where testing has resulted in non-detect readings at the more rigorous screening limit.

The West Virginia National Guard, last week, began a round of testing on public and private schools. Six schools were highlighted by the round of testing. The six schools in Kanawha, Lincoln, Clay and Putnam counties were well below the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended level, but were not yet at the more rigorous screening level that the state’s interagency team was directed to achieve by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin beyond the CDC guidelines.

The five schools that were re-flushed and re-tested over the weekend and now fall below both the CDC recommendation and Gov. Earl Ray Tombin’s directive are:

Kanawha County
George Washington High School
John Adams Middle School
Andrew Heights Elementary School

Putnam County
Buffalo High School

Clay County
H.E. White Elementary

The WVDE is awaiting another set of results for Lincoln County High School.

“I hope these latest results provided by the National Guard will help assure parents, students and teachers that our schools are safe,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. “The results that are in for the impacted schools meet all standards. As always, student learning and student safety are priorities and I must commend our local superintendents for their quick and diligent work with health officials and the National Guard.”

This second round of flushing took place to achieve a non-detect level below 10 parts per billion, which is 100 times more rigorous than the 1 part per million screening level provided by the CDC for protecting public health. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin directed the National Guard to test public and private schools to confirm the water meets this more rigorous standard to provide an additional level of assurance. The more rigorous standards are also approved by the CDC for pregnant woman.

During the current water crisis, county school systems have partnered with their respective health departments, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health and the National Guard to make sure each of their schools met the safe criteria for water consumption.
 

 
01-31-14 @ 5:15PM
THREE WEST VIRGINIA COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEMS CONTINUE RESPONSE TO WATER CRISIS
 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is working closely with county school systems to ensure student safety.  The WVDE was made aware that five state public schools located in three West Virginia counties will undergo another round of flushing following water tests conducted by the West Virginia National Guard.

“It is important for students, parents and educators to understand that the five schools highlighted by the most recent round of testing were well below the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended level, but were not yet at the more stringent screening level that the interagency team was directed to achieve beyond the CDC guidelines,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares.

Kanawha County
George Washington High School
John Adams Middle School
Andrew Heights Elementary School

Putnam County
Buffalo High School

Lincoln County
Lincoln County High School

This second round of flushing is to achieve a non-detect level, below 10 parts per billion, which is 100 times more rigorous than the 1 part per million screening level provided by the CDC for protecting public health. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin directed the National Guard to test public and private schools to confirm the water meets this more rigorous standard to provide an additional level of assurance.

During the current water crisis, county school systems have partnered with their respective health departments, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health and the National Guard to make sure each of their schools met the safe criteria for water consumption. Hand sanitizer, bottled water and food preparation with bottled water will continue to be used in impacted county schools until the schools have been cleared below 10 parts per billion.

Kanawha, Putnam and Lincoln County School Systems will re-flush the five county schools once again following the proper protocol and guidelines for flushing to achieve a level below the 10 parts per billion.  Additional water samples will be taken to ensure water quality at the identified schools. As additional results come in from the remaining facilities, county school systems will communicate with parents and the public.

For more information contact Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at (304) 558-2699.

 

 

01-30-14 @ 6:39PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN ANNOUNCES U.S. SBA ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS AVAILABLE

Loans to help small businesses and eligible private, nonprofit organizations in the areas affected by the Elk River chemical spill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) granted his request for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.  The declaration makes low-interest loans available for small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the chemical spill that forced a curtailment of water service beginning January 9, 2014 and continuing until January 17, 2014.

“I’m grateful for the SBA’s quick response to my request for assistance to help the businesses and nonprofit organizations  whose operations were disrupted as a result of West Virginia American Water Company’s DO NOT USE order,” Gov. Tomblin said. 

Businesses and nonprofit organizations located in Boone, Kanawha, and Putnam counties as well as Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, Nicholas, Raleigh, Roane, and Wyoming counties  may apply for the U.S. SBA economic injury disaster loans.  Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application provided on the SBA’s website: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.  Disaster loan information and application forms can also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing).
 

 

01-30-14 @ 6:26PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN ASKS WVAW TO MAKE POTABLE AND BOTTLED WATER AVAILABLE IN
AFFECTED AREAS


AUDIO

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today asked West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre to provide potable and bottled water to West Virginians in the areas affected by the January 9 Elk River chemical spill.

“Immediately following West Virginia American Water’s DO NOT USE order on January 9, I began working with the West Virginia National Guard and Office of Emergency Services to provide water and supplies to impacted citizens,” Gov. Tomblin said. “While the DO NOT USE order has been lifted, we continue to receive calls from constituents and organizations requesting water be made available to their communities. To address this need, I have asked West Virginia American Water Company to make available potable and bottled water to West Virginians in the affected areas.”

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
 

 
 

01-29-14 @ 5:15PM

The following was issued by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources:
 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –  Scott Simonton’s presentation to the West Virginia Joint Legislative Committee today is totally unfounded and does not speak to the health and safety of West Virginians.

Subject matter experts who have been assisting West Virginia through this entire emergency response state that the only way possible for formaldehyde to come from MCHM is if it were combusted at 500 F. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) states formaldehyde is the most frequent aldehyde found in nature and is naturally measurable in air and water.  Formaldehyde is created through the normal breakdown cycle of plants and animals.  Formaldehyde dissolves easily in water and does not last a long time in water.

Additionally, formaldehyde is naturally produced in very small amounts in our bodies as a part of our normal, everyday metabolism and causes no harm.  It can also be found in the air that we breathe at home and at work, in the food we eat, and in some products that we put on our skin. 

Formaldehyde is found in many products used every day around the house such as antiseptics, medicines, cosmetics, dish-washing liquids, fabric softeners, shoe-care agents, carpet cleaners, glues and adhesives, lacquers, paper, plastics, and some types of wood products.

We are unaware of the specifics of how this study was conducted, including sampling procedures, protocol and methodology, and would also be interested in the possibility of some other issue affecting the testing of water at the establishment indicated.

Everyone has been affected by this water crisis and public health is of the utmost importance.  Mr. Simonton has not been part of the integral team of water testing officials from numerous state, local and private agencies working non-stop since January 9.  His opinion is personal but speaks in no official capacity.

 

 

01-27-2014 @ 8:33PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN REQUESTS FEMA MODIFY EMERGENCY DECLARATION

Modification would allow state, local governments and non-profit agencies to receive reimbursement for relief efforts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to modify the current federal Emergency Declaration to provide for Direct Funding Assistance to state and local government programs and eligible non-profit agencies in the nine counties affected by the Elk River chemical spill on January 9.
 

“At the time of the Emergency Declaration, no one knew how long this assistance would be needed,” Gov. Tomblin said. “The response to the Elk River chemical spill is ongoing and many of our agencies continue to work hard to recover from this spill. I urge FEMA to modify the current emergency declaration so eligible expenditures by our first responders, state and local governments and non-profit agencies can be reimbursed.”

As the current Emergency Declaration stands, public and non-profit agencies that have made expenditures to distribute supplies and meet the needs of those in the affected areas are presently denied access to Category B Emergency Protective Measures funding. A modification to the current declaration would allow eligible applicants in the affected counties to receive FEMA support, including reimbursement.

To read Gov. Tomblin’s letter in its entirety, click here.

 

 

01-27-2014 @ 8:32PM
GOV. TOMBLIN REQUESTS ASSISTANCE FROM SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION  
 
To help small businesses and eligible private, nonprofit organizations
 
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today requested assistance from the Small Business Administration to expedite help for small businesses and eligible private, non-profit organizations.  The letter highlights how some small businesses are struggling to meet financial obligations and pay ordinary and necessary operating expenses because of curtailed water service in parts of nine counties following a chemical leak.
  
“Businesses suffered revenue losses as a result of the West Virginia American Water’s DO NOT USE order in addition to local employees who lost wages,” Gov. Tomblin said.  “This event caused significant disruption to businesses in the affected areas.” 
 
Gov. Tomblin also noted in his letter that even after water was restored, certain businesses and restaurants were required to cleanse their facilities in order to meet requirements set by local health departments.
 
To read Gov. Tomblin’s letter in its entirety, click here.
 

 

01-25-14​ @ 3:11PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN ORDERS FREEDOM INDUSTRIES TO DISMANTLE, REMOVE AND PROPERLY DISPOSE OF ALL ABOVE GROUND STORAGE TANKS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered Freedom Industries to begin, by March 15, 2014, the process of dismantling, removing and properly disposing of all of its above ground storage tanks, as well as associated piping and machinery, at its Etowah River Terminal in Charleston.  
 
Gov. Tomblin’s directive is included in Consent Order 8034 issued Friday by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and signed by Freedom Industries.  Gov. Tomblin and Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman began discussing the need to dismantle the tanks on Jan. 10, 2014.
 
The Etowah River Terminal, located on the Elk River, is the site of a Jan. 9 chemical spill that leaked Crude MCHM from a storage tank into the Elk and shut down the drinking water supply for nearly 300,000 West Virginia residents.
 
The facility currently has 17 tanks, including three tanks that contained Crude MCHM. The tank that leaked and caused the resulting spill also contained the chemical PPH.  All three of those tanks are now empty. Materials in the remaining 14 tanks include Calcium Chloride and Glycerin. All 17 tanks are located within inadequate secondary containment areas that allowed materials to spill into the Elk River.
 
Gov. Tomblin is ordering Freedom Industries, on or before March 15, 2014, to remove all materials from the remaining 14 tanks at the Elk River facility and store the material off-site in an area which provides adequate secondary containment. The company also must provide the WVDEP with reports detailing the disposition of the materials removed from the tanks.  
 
During the dismantling of the tanks, Freedom Industries is ordered to install measures that ensure that secondary containment is adequate to contain any potential spills resulting from the work. Secondary containment structures cannot be removed until all above ground tanks have been dismantled and removed from the site.  
 
Freedom Industries must take all actions required by the terms and conditions of the Order and agrees it will not contest the state’s jurisdiction regarding the Order.
 
The state also has the right to take further action against Freedom Industries if compliance with the terms and conditions of the Order does not adequately address violations noted. Also, if any event occurs which causes delay in Freedom Industries meeting the requirements of the Order, the company must prove that the delay was caused by circumstances beyond its reasonable control and could not have been overcome by due diligence.
 
Compliance with the terms and conditions of the Order does not relieve Freedom Industries of the obligation to comply with any applicable law, permit, other order, or any other requirement otherwise applicable. Violations of the terms and conditions of the Order may subject Freedom Industries to additional penalties and injunctive relief in accordance with the applicable law.
 
The Order is subject to a 30-day public comment period.  To read the Order it its entirety, click here​.
 

 

01-18-14 @ 4:16PM
GOV. TOMBLIN DIRECTS DR. TIERNEY AND GENERAL HOYER TO HOST CONFERENCE CALL ADDRESSING COMMUNITY CONCERNS

 Topics included overview of CDC guidelines, testing protocol
 
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today hosted a community conference call.  Dr. Letitia Tierney, Commissioner for the Bureau of Public Health and the State’s Health Officer, and Adjutant General James A. Hoyer provided an overview of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and testing protocol.  The following questions were submitted by members of the community and addressed by Dr. Tierney and General Hoyer.

Are you (Dr. Tierney) using the water?
Initially when I flushed my house, I did not detect any smell.  Throughout the next couple of days, I did detect a smell.  I have used it for drinking, bathing, and cooking—and as of today, I’m no longer detecting the odor in my home.
 
Why do I still smell licorice even though I’ve flushed my water lines?
MCHM has a low odor threshold—meaning you can smell MCHM at 100,000 times the no observable adverse effect level.
 
Will we continue testing?  At what levels?
We will continue testing until the system has been sampled and tested at 1/100 parts per million—a level well below the CDC recommended threshold for public health.  The CDC provided information that it believes there is no evidence to suggest that water levels below the laboratory limit of detection of 10 parts per billion (1/100 parts per million) would have adverse health effects, including for pregnant women. 
 
Testing will continue and the Bureau of Public Health Office of Environmental Services will continue to monitor until the sampling throughout the system has reached the 1/100 ppm level.
 
Why is the water unsafe for pregnant women to drink but considered safe for everyone else to consume? 
Doctors routinely advise pregnant women to avoid consuming a number of things—including caffeine, alcohol, raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized dairy products, luncheon meats and hot dogs.  Fetal cells are continuing to develop, which is why pregnant women have been encouraged to continue drinking bottled water until there are no longer detectable levels of MCHM in the water distribution system.  The CDC provided us the guideline “out of an abundance of caution,” just the same as we do for caffeine, alcohol and unpasteurized dairy products.
 
What is causing the burns/rashes and emergency room visits, if people are using “safe” water?
We’ve been monitoring everyone who has presented to the hospital, and what they’ve been complaining of is not a burn like you and I would think of as a burn. Some doctors have described it as a “solar burn” which is similar to a sunburn.  Basically, it’s red skin.  Everyone has different sensitivities and as we move through the flushing process, sediment has been stirred up from your hot water tank and the pipes.  Some sediment may be coming through the shower that you don’t even see. Because everyone has different sensitivities, some may be experiencing this and some may not.
 
These are topical only.  They’re short-lived.  They are easily treated with over-the-counter products.  I would advise anybody who is seeing this type of reaction to speak with your physician.  They won’t last.  Once things settle down, these symptoms will go away.  

Can children under three years of age consume the water?
DHHR confirmed the only guidance from the CDC is that “due to limited availability of data, and out of an abundance of caution, you may wish to consider an alternative drinking water source for pregnant women until the chemical is at non-detectable levels in the water distribution system.”  The CDC provided information that they believe there is no evidence to suggest that water levels below the laboratory limit of detection of 10 parts per billion (1/100 parts per million) would have adverse health effects, including for pregnant women.  Children were considered in these guidelines.  Short-term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for children or others.

Are there known risks associated with this chemical mixing with household cleaners?
No.  Household cleaning can continue normally.  

Is this water harmful to my pets?
If you are concerned about a pet (dogs and cats) that may have been exposed to contaminated water, contact your local county health officials. In regards to livestock, State Veterinarian Dr. Jewell Plumley said last Friday afternoon, after continuing to seek consultation and advice from toxicologists and animal experts from across the country, there are no known risks to livestock that may have been exposed to the water.

How has the chemical spill impacted fish and other aquatic life?
DNR is coordinating with all appropriate agencies to monitor any potential impacts to aquatic organisms resulting from this chemical spill.  The Wildlife Resources Section has had staff on site and has not observed or received any reports of dead fish at this time.  

Will grey water from the affected West Virginia American Water systems have a negative impact on surrounding districts?
(Grey water sewage and flush water)  Sewage goes to a treatment plant to be treated.  Because Total Organic Carbon is measured and regulated, the treatment plant must notify DEP if unsafe levels of MCHM are present.  At this time, there are no reports of unsafe levels.  Following treatment, the water is sent into rivers and streams where any MCHM is further diluted into non-detectable levels.  In the case of flush water, it is again diluted into non-detectable levels.  There is no cause for concern for surrounding water intakes bringing in water at unsafe levels. 
 
Does MCHM adhere or leech into plastics?
MCHM may temporarily adhere to plastic pipelines which could result in a lingering licorice smell for some time.  The chemical is such that you can continue to smell it, even at 100,000 times below the no observable adverse effect level.

Are water distribution sites still available?  If so, where and for how long?
Water distribution sites are still available and will continue to be available well into next week.  In order to determine where and how long these sites will remain in effect, it’s important for you to reach out to your county emergency management office.  Please note, the counties adjust and change distribution points based on need and availability.  To find a water distribution location in your area, contact your local emergency management office or visit www.governor.wv.gov. 

Will there be any future legislation presented to protect the integrity of our water?
Gov. Tomblin directed his legal team to work with the DEP to draft legislation to help prevent this type of crisis from happening again and anticipates introducing a bill next week.  This legislation will: empower the DEP to implement an above ground storage tank regulatory program; require above ground storage tanks to be constructed and maintained in a safe manner; ensure public water systems have proper contingency plans in place to prepare for emergencies such as this; and requires public notice to affected municipalities, counties and the general public concerning regulated above ground storage tanks.  The governor anticipates submitting this legislation to the Senate and House of Delegates early next week.  The efforts will be coordinated with legislative leadership as well as West Virginia’s Congressional Delegation.  

I’m breastfeeding, can I drink the water?
I (Dr. Tierney) understand your concern.  This was taken into account concerning the safety factors provided by the CDC.  Short-term exposure at these levels is not likely to cause any adverse health effects for children or others.  If you are concerned check with your physician, and feel free to use bottled water as this is a personal decision.

I experienced nausea when I flushed my pipes, why is this?
It is important to remember we have old pipes, new pipes, copper pipes and iron pipes—flushing is causing the sediment to be stirred up.  Even small amounts of copper can cause people to feel sick to their stomach and can make people vomit.  This will not continue—it is a result of the flushing process. 

Why are so many people going to the hospital?
There are a couple of reasons—we’re in the middle of flu season and virus season.  Many of us haven’t been able to consistently wash our hands with soap and water. While the sanitizer is good for cleaning, it isn’t great for eliminating a virus.  Some people are getting these viruses, as many people do every winter.  In addition, a lot of people are getting very anxious.  Anxiety is a real diagnosis and it can be really hard on people and its okay to be seen by a health professional to ensure you’re okay.  The flushing process may have caused the side effects as noted above.  Also, the number of people who have been seen in hospitals is a very small number of people as it relates to the affected population.  No one has been seriously ill.  No one remains hospitalized.
 

01-17-14 @ 5:12PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN PROVIDES UPDATE REGARDING THE CURRENT STATE OF EMERGENCY

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov.  Earl Ray Tomblin today issued a statement regarding the current status and continued course of action regarding the State of Emergency in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties.
 
“West Virginia American Water has recently lifted the DO NOT USE order for the last area -- allowing families and businesses to begin the flushing process. However, agencies are responding to concerns in the Buffalo area of Putnam County and will continue to monitor that specific situation. Across the affected regions our testing teams will remain on the job to make sure the water company’s system complies with CDC guidelines. 
 
“Following recent guidance from the CDC, plant output will continue to be tested at parts per billion. As the system is fully restored, we will test at the parts per billion level to confirm non-detectable levels in the water distribution system.
 
“My team’s number one priority is the health and safety of those impacted by this crisis. My family is in the affected area. Many of the team’s families and neighbors are in the affected areas. This crisis hits home.  The efforts we are taking are for all of our families.
 
“So far we have distributed more than 15 million bottles of water. We have more than 100 trailers on hand at the National Guard distribution center.  Bottled water distribution at various locations in the affected areas will continue. I’ve asked the Director of Homeland Security to place additional orders so that water will be available well into next week.
 
“I would also ask if you are stocked up on water, please refrain from taking free water from the emergency assistance centers. We’ve got to make sure water is available to those most in need. Also, please pay attention to any updates from my team and from West Virginia American Water Company. We are working hard to give you the most accurate and up to date information we have available.

 
Proposed Legislation 
 
“I’ve directed my legal team to work with the DEP to draft legislation to help prevent this type of crisis from happening again.  We’ll have a bill introduced next week. This legislation empowers the DEP to implement an above ground storage tank regulatory program. It requires above ground storage tanks to be constructed and maintained in a safe manner. It ensures that public water systems have proper contingency plans in place to prepare for emergencies, such as this, and requires public notice to affected municipalities, counties, and the general public concerning regulated above ground storage tanks.    

“I anticipate submitting this legislation to the Senate and House of Delegates early next week. We will coordinate these efforts with our legislative leadership as well as our Congressional Delegation in Washington.” 
 
 

01-16-14 @ 11PM
REMINDER FROM WEST VIRGINIA AMERICAN WATER

Please do not begin flushing until your area is lifted, nor flush beyond the necessary 25 minutes highlighted in our "How to Flush Your Plumbing System” guide. As a result of peak demand in the locations where the Do Not Use order has been lifted, the available water storage in our system is approaching levels that may cause low pressure situations, service disruptions, and reduce the amount of water available for fire protection. It also has delayed the time when additional areas can be released from the Do Not Use order. Thank you for your cooperation and patience as West Virginia American Water, the Army National Guard and our interagency partners continue to work around the clock to restore service to all of our Kanawha Valley customers.
 

 

01-16-14 @ 8:10PM
STATE OF EMERGENCY UPDATE

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –Adjutant General James A. Hoyer this evening issued the following statement.

“We have been sampling at the plant at both the parts per million (ppm) and parts per billion (ppb) levels throughout this process to ensure the highest level of confidence in the system. When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provided us with the 1 ppm public health standard we focused on testing at the parts per million level.

“In light of the CDC's additional guidance last night related to the abundance of caution for pregnant women and to ensure the highest level of public health we will continue to test the plant output at parts per million.  Once the system is fully restored, we will test the system at the parts per billion level to ensure non-detectable levels in the water distribution system.” 



01-15-14 @ 9:45PM

To view a frequently asked questions document regarding the consumption of water by pregnant women developed by the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), CLICK HERE.

 

  

01-15-14 @ 7:40PM 
WATER ADVISORY FOR PREGNANT WOMEN 

The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health advises, after consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this evening, that the CDC recommends - out of an abundance of caution - that pregnant women drink bottled water until there are no longer detectable levels of MCHM in the water distribution system. However, the CDC re-affirmed previous advice that it does not anticipate any adverse health effects from levels less than 1 ppm.  
 

To view guidance from the CDC, CLICK HERE.

 
 

01-14-14 @ 7:50PM 
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN PROVIDES UPDATE REGARDING THE CURRENT STATE OF EMERGENCY

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today issued the following statement regarding the ongoing State of Emergency in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties.
 
“More West Virginians have seen the DO NOT USE order lifted for their area and have been asked to begin the flushing process. More than one-third of the affected customers have had safe water restored. West Virginia American Water Company reports that samples taken at its treatment plant intake now show no presence of the chemical.
 
“The DO NOT USE order remains in place for other areas.  I ask residents in these areas to be patient and refrain from beginning the flushing process.  Please continue to check West Virginia American Water Company’s map (http://www.amwater.com/wvaw/about-us/news.html) to find out if your area has been cleared for flushing. This information in also available by phone at 1-800-685-8660.
 
“The West Virginia National Guard will continue to provide bottled water to West Virginians in the affected counties. Please visit www.governor.wv.gov to find a water distribution center near you or contact your local emergency management office.
 

“Getting our students back into safe and healthy classrooms is one of my top priorities. Reopening will be determined on a county-to-county basis and will require that specific protocols be met. The Department of Education is working with the local county emergency and health agencies, along with the National Guard, to ensure our schools are properly flushed and cleaned before students return to the classroom. Parents concerned about sending their child to school may contact their school principal.

“I’d also like to express my appreciation to the residents of the affected areas for their patience and understanding.  I know this has been a difficult time for both residential and business communities. I ask you to continue to be patient—our team must have adequate time to ensure the safe and stable return of water service to affected areas.”
 
 

01-13-14 @4:45PM

Please call West Virginia American Water at 1-800-685-8660 or visit www.bit.ly/1anLkRP to see if the DO NOT USE order has been lifted in your area.

 

01-13-14 @ 1:30PM

To view West Virginia American Water Company's "How to Flush Your Plumbing System" guidelines, CLICK HERE.

 

01-11-14 @ 12PM

To read the proclamation extending the State of Emergency to Cabell, Clay, Logan and Roane counties, CLICK HERE.
 

To read the proclamation declaring a State of Emergency in Boone, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties, CLICK HERE.

 

01-10-14 @ 7:45PM 

For assistance locating a water distribution point in your county, please contact your local emergency management office.

  • Boone County – 304 369-9913
  • Cabell County – 304 743-5391
  • Clay County – 304 587-2019
  • Jackson County – 304 373-2208 or 304 372-2000
  • Kanawha County – 304 744-6843
  • Lincoln County – 304 824-3443
  • Logan County – 304 752-7662 or 304 752-8817 or Sharples VFD 304-369-2630
  • Putnam County – 304 586-0246
  • Roane County – 304 927-0911
     

01-10-14 @ 7:30PM

West Virginia American Water issued a DO NOT USE WATER NOTICE for all West Virginia American Water customers in Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties, as well as customers in Culloden in Cabell County.  All other WVAW customers in Cabell County are NOT affected, as they receive their water from the Huntington Water Treatment Plant.  Customers who are served by the City of Hurricane, St. Albans, Putnam PSD, Montgomery and Cedar Grove/East Bank are NOT affected.
 

Please Note: West Virginia American Water is NOT shutting off water to any customers as a result of the "do not use" order currently in place in the Kanawha Valley system.

 

01-10-14 @ 4PM 
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN PROVIDES UPDATE REGARDING THE STATE OF EMERGENCY

During afternoon press conference
 
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin this afternoon provided an update regarding the State of Emergency still in effect for parts of Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane Counties.
 
“We encourage all individuals to determine whether their home or business is in the affected service areas.  One indicator of the contaminated water is the odor of the water.  We urge all residents in the affected areas to follow West Virginia American Water Company’s “do not use” order until it is lifted.  This includes water companies supplied by West Virginia American Water in this area. If you live in one of these areas, do not use tap water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing, or bathing.  At this time, I do not know how long this will last.
 
“We ask that all West Virginian’s check on their friends, families, and neighbors—especially those with small children and seniors living in their households—to make sure they have enough water, food, and supplies. If you—or anyone you know--experiences symptoms including: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, irritation of the eyes and skin, seek care immediately. 
  
“Yesterday my DEP ordered the company storing the chemical … to take immediate action and stop additional flows of the chemical into the Elk River.  This discharge of pollutants is unacceptable. I spoke with the president of West Virginian American Water and the COO of American Water, the parent company.  I’ve also spoken with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Johnson.  They have pledged their full support and assistance.
 
“I’ve mobilized and deployed all appropriate government assets and resources, including our Office of Emergency Management, our experts at DEP, DHHR Bureau of Public Health along with our National Guard—who are out doing health and wellness checks across the area along with collecting, testing and monitoring the water. The federal government is also providing assistance. The President has approved my request to issue a federal emergency declaration to provide FEMA resources.  County emergency offices are also working 24-7.
 
“Until we receive an “all-clear,” we are focusing efforts on helping the most vulnerable in hospitals and nursing homes. We have asked the DHHR Bureau for Public Health, Senior Services, and WVNG to develop a long-term plan to help ensure adequate supplies of water and food is available.
 
“If you are low on bottled water, do not panic.  Help is on the way.  We are taking every measure to provide water to you. There is no shortage of bottled water.  Supplies are moving into the area as we speak.  We encourage all West Virginians in affected areas to contact their local emergency management office for water distribution sites.
 
 “If you or your organization would like to donate supplies, please contact your local emergency center.  If you are in the Kanawha Valley Area, we are organizing a call to action drive for needed items—including water, sanitizer, wipes, liquid baby formula, paper plates, plastic utensils, and microwavable meals.  The drive will take place on the Boulevard in front of the State Capitol from 2:30 – 6:30 today. It is important to emphasize, water and supplies are available—there is not a persistent shortage of bottled water.
 
“We are grateful for the offers of support from private firms and charities—and our fellow West Virginians—to aid in providing relief.
 
“I will direct my general counsel, and my Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, General Hoyer to begin reviewing our emergency response to this incident. They reviewed both the response to the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy.  We learned a lot from those disasters.  Our past reviews have prepared us well for this situation.  We can learn a lot from this particular incident.”
 

  

01-10-14 @ 10:25AM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today issued the following statement regarding the current State of Emergency in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties.

The State of Emergency remains in the affected counties.  The Governor dispatched the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to Freedom Industries yesterday, ordering it to halt further leaching of the particular chemical into the river. 

Our emergency response team has worked to develop a testing protocol and a sampling plan on the chemical at issue.  Initial samples have been taken, and additional sampling and testing will continue throughout the situation.

The sampling plan is a coordinated effort with West Virginia American Water Company and the state Bureau of Public Health, and our emergency responders. This process will take time, but we continue to work quickly to provide information related to the ability to lift the “do not use” ordered by West Virginia American Water Company.

Also overnight, water supplies have been relocated and have begun to be distributed to affected areas. Please call your local emergency service office to locate the closest distribution point for your area.  Continue to refrain from using the water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and washing. Do not boil this water or use it to supply oxygen machines.

Our efforts will continue until we have a resolution. Our main focus continues to center around our hospitals, nursing homes and those most vulnerable.
I will continue to keep our citizens updated as we gather additional information.
 
 

01-10-14 @ 12:48AM

The White House has approved Gov. Tomblin's request for a federal emergency declaration to assist with the situation in affected areas.
 

 

01-09-14 @ 9:32PM
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN 9 COUNTIES

Water to be available through the county offices of emergency services
 
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin this evening issued a State of Emergency for Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties.  This declaration follows a notice from West Virginia American Water Company that its water supply had become contaminated.  Residents served by Lincoln PSD, Queen Shoals PSD, Reamer PSD, City of Culloden PSD, and City of Hurricane PSD are also affected.
 
“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged NOT to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Gov. Tomblin said.  “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools.  I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible.”​​​​​​​​
 

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