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Federal Officials Speak out On Water Crisis

Reported: Feb. 5, 2014 2:19 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 5, 2014 10:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Katy Brown) -- Nearly a month into the water crisis and federal agencies spoke out for the first time on Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in a news conference.

“Right now we're all focusing on MCHM,” Dr. Tanja Popovic, with the CDC, said.
“We're looking at its screening levels. We firmly believe that the levels allow for protection."

Officials from both agencies said they have been on scene since day one.

However, 30 days into the crisis and still no real updates. MCHM levels remain at what officials are calling "appropriate."

"It's either been non-detect, where instruments can necessarily pick it up or can't read an accurate level or magnitudes below that screening level," Shawn Garvin, with the CDC, said.

Many of the 300,000 West Virgina American Water customers affected by the Jan. 9 spill are still hesitant to drink the water.

CDC officials said they do not expect any long term effects from the water contamination, but for the time being, several people are still claiming the water is making them sick.

"It's very hard for me to say now that these symptoms are associated with MCHM, when the levels are nondetectable," Popovic said.

But regardless of illness and complaints of still smelling the licorice odor, CDC and other federal officials stand firmly by their statement that the tap water from West Virginians’ sinks is appropriate.

And with many claims of people getting sick from the water, CDC officials said they will continue surveillance of symptoms reported, which could lead to possible studies on the health impact.

But there are no plans right now for a comprehensive medical monitoring program.

Tomblin said he has directed his team to evalutate home testing options.




CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Centers for Disease Control official said at a news conference in Charleston Wednesday that tap water in the affected areas of a chemical spill is safe to use based on available scientific evidence.

"The only scientific evidence we have, with what numerous people have worked on, you can use your water however you'd like," Dr. Tanja Popovic said. "You can bathe in it, you can drink it. You can use it however you'd like."

Popovic was among a group of officials who attended a news conference at the Capitol that included Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Environmental Protection officials and numerous state and county representatives.

Popovic explained how the CDC came up with the below the 1 parts per million level for MCHM, the chemical that leaked into the Elk River. She also said a group of experts will be studying the data of the reported health symptoms that have been reported in the wake of the chemical spill.

"At this point it looks like that long-term (health) effects are unlikely," Popovic said.

Meanwhile, Tomblin said he has asked West Virginia American Water to change the filters at its water treatment plant as soon as possible. He also said he has asked the water company to continue testing its water and for the state Bureau of Public Health to keep testing water at the plant and raw water.

An EPA official at the news conference said that the Freedom Industries site on Barlow Drive near Charleston where the spill has occurred has been stablized and that work will be under way to dismantle the site.



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