Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Federal health agency says West Virginia can't handle chemical incidents like the one in January

Last week it was revealed that West Virginia American Water Co. delayed for eight years plans to review potential contamination sources upstream of the treatment plant that was responsible for a January chemical spill that dumped thousands of gallons of a coal-cleaning chemical into a major regional water supply.

A review by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, released to the public on Tuesday, says the state Department of Health and Human Resources lacks a program and properly trained staff to assess community-wide chemical exposures like the one that contaminated the Elk River, Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette.

Epidemiologists who normally work on infectious disease issues handled the Bureau for Public Health’s response to the January water crises, said the ATSDR, Ward writes. The report said, "Currently, there are no epidemiologists in positions that respond to acute chemical or radiological releases or specifically tasked with natural disaster response. There also are no programs to enhance occupational safety and health of responders.” (Read more)

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