The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

February 22, 2014

Water sampling completed in 10 homes

Taxpayer-funded team testing MCHM levels

CHARLESTON — A taxpayer-funded research team has collected hundreds of water samples from 10 homes, in the hope of determining how much of a coal-cleaning chemical can be present in the water supply before it is too toxic for people to drink.

The team will also try to determine at what level the licorice-scented chemical — abbreviated as MCHM — can be smelled in the water. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin commissioned the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project Team to conduct research after a chemical leak tainted the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians, still leaving many citizens with questions about water safety.

West Virginia Testing Assessment Project Team leader Dr. Andrew Whelton, a professor from the University of South Alabama, said 900 samples were taken in the 10 homes from kitchen and bathroom taps. Hot and cold water samples were taken.

The results are expected back in one to three weeks.

Whelton said the results of these studies will be used to define the parameters of the larger, 1,000-home study. The goal of the larger study will be to test the 10 parts-per-billion of MCHM threshold the state has declared an acceptable level for tap water.

This state standard is 100 times lower than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suggested standard of 1 part-per-million.

“We want to make sure we fully capture all of the information and all of the chemical analysis data at the sites of these 10 homes. We will use these results to design the much larger study,” he said. “We will design the study to be scientifically defensible based on data. That is why we are taking our time and taking so many samples.”

Jeff Rosen, of Corona Environmental Consulting, joined Whelton this week to lead the project. Rosen said odor analysis experts Michael J. McGuire, independent environmental engineer, and Mel Suffett, UCLA professor, have also been contracted to create an odor analysis of MCHM. The analysis will determine at what levels the little-known chemicals can be smelled in tap water.

Many residents have reported that their tap water emitted a licorice odor. Whelton said test teams at several of the houses also detected the odor.

Rosen noted it is possible the chemical may be smelled well below levels that are non-toxic.

In addition, Utah State Professor Craig Adams has also been brought on board to compile an exhaustive list of toxicity reports and tests on crude MCHM. This review will be used by a panel of experts to begin risk assessments.

Whelton said the government responded to the spill and water crisis the best they could with the scientific information they had on MCHM. Extensive testing on the chemical, however, should have been conducted a decade ago after the Sept. 11 attacks focused federal and state funds on possible terrorist attacks and water contamination.

This pilot project will allow the research team to pinpoint the scope of the larger project. “By the end of the project, we will have some answers,” he said.

Tomblin has approved an additional $112,000 for the project, bringing the total state funds allotted for the study up to $762,000.

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • Still alive, TWV’S 54th season is all ‘Hatfields and McCoys’

    Although the schedule is a bit different than originally planned, Theatre West Virginia Act II is officially alive, with 17 scheduled showings of “Hatfields and McCoys.”
    The curtain will rise for its 54th season on July 11, and Manager Scott Hill said these 17 shows will be produced with the same quality theater patrons have come to know and love over the years.

    April 17, 2014

  • jobfair Spring Job Fair: 400 job seekers meet 22 employers

    More than 400 people came looking for a new job Wednesday at The Register-Herald’s Spring Job Fair at the Tamarack Conference Center.
    This year there were 22 area employers in attendance which gave potential hires more options in many different fields.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Train derailment reported in Mercer County

    The derailment occurred in the Rock area of Mercer County, according to Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman.

    April 16, 2014

  • Report: High-quality child care lacking in state

    Child care programs of minimum or unrated quality are watching over about 93 percent of West Virginia children enrolled in them, a report released Wednesday said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Rahall raises $324k in WVa’s 3rd; Jenkins, $194k

    Democrat U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall raised almost $324,000 last quarter for his contested re-election bid, while GOP challenger Evan Jenkins banked about $193,500.

    April 16, 2014

  • State regional jails ban touching during visits

    Concerns about drug contraband have prompted a ban on regional jail inmates touching loved ones during supervised contact visits.

    April 16, 2014

  • Renew W.Va. car registration online

    State residents strapped for time got a break Tuesday when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Acting Division of Motor Vehicles Director Steve Dale announced new DMV online options for renewing vehicle registration.

    April 16, 2014

  • Manchin says mines should speak out about coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Rainelle Town Council pulls plans to annex roads

    Residents of several communities in Greenbrier County can rest assured they won’t be affected by a proposed road annexation after Rainelle Town Council decided not to move forward with the plan.

    April 16, 2014

  • City and county code enforcement offices separate

    After 10 years of partnership, the City of Beckley and the Raleigh County Code Enforcement offices have decided to part ways.
    Mayor Bill O’Brien said after several meetings with county commissioners, the groups decided to separate.

    April 16, 2014

AP Video