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Researchers Release Preliminary Economic Impact Numbers From Chemical Spill

Reported: Feb. 5, 2014 4:11 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 6, 2014 2:39 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Darrah Wilcox) -- The estimated economic output of business lost on two weekend days and two business days during the water ban caused by the Jan. 9 chemical spill is $61 million.

The Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) conducted a preliminary investigation into the economic impact and released those figures this week.

"It pretty much brought the capitol of West Virginia to a screeching halt!" CBER Director of Research Christine Risch said. "It's interesting to see how critical water is as an input to production. It's something most people take for granted."

The CBER focused on establishments where clean water was essential for production.

"We focused a lot on the restaurants and lodging establishments and those types of businesses trying to hone in on the businesses that would not be able to recover their income," Risch said.

The daily impact is estimated to be just over $19 million for each business day the ban was fully in place.

Barbara Rutherford runs Simple Life Consignments and Estate Sales in Culloden.

"It's all household items. Furniture, dishes, pictures, nick-knacks," she said of the business.

Although water isn't critical to her business, they still took a hit.

"I'm sure they were worried using their water, and so they just didn't feel comfortable coming out and enjoying a shopping day," Rutherford said.

Java Joe's in Culloden continues to use bottled water to make coffee and ice.

Barista Suzanna Nass said, "We just manage, but it's definitely been different."

Nass said customers appreciate the extra step, even though authorities say the water is safe. She said if she didn't feel comfortable drinking it, she didn't feel comfortable serving it.

The CBER also estimated the spill affected 75,000 workers each day for those four days. The estimates take into effect lost wages on those days.

The $61 million figure does not include clean-up costs of the spill or emergency expenditures made as a result and is thus not intended to represent the full economic impact of this incident.

Risch said their number-crunching will continue. "It's not over yet. I know there's a lot of analysis that needs to be done to see what really has happened."



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