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In-Home Water Testing Continuing; Larger Scale Plan In Works

Reported: Feb. 14, 2014 5:47 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 14, 2014 7:11 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- In what's being called an unprecedented project, in-home water testing continues across nine counties affected by the Jan. 9 chemical spill at Freedom Industries.

Eyewitness News talked one on one with Dr. Andrew Whelton, one of the leaders of the independent team conducting those tests.

Whelton said it will be weeks before we learn about the results of the in home testing. He admitted their research will not answer all of the questions so many West Virginians have, but he wants to answer as many as scientifically possible.

Whelton first came to West Virginia three weeks ago with students and faculty from the University of South Alabama. They went into homes, trying to get answers after MCHM contaminated the drinking water for thousands West Virginia American Water customers.

"As I saw the events unfold, I realized real quickly that nothing new had been learned and they were making decisions based on data they simply didn't have," he said.

Critical of the way the crisis was being handled, he caught the attention of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Tomblin announced on Tuesday the formation of WV TAP, an independent in-home testing project led by Whelton and Jeffrey Rosen of Corona Environmental Consulting.

"They have a lot of questions that we can't answer but we are commited to helping the people of West Virginia understand what happened. What are the chemical levels at their tap? And helping them get the answers that they really deserve," Whelton said.

Ten homes have already been chosen across the affected area, with about 60 samples taken in each, according to Whelton. He said the cost to each home is anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000.

Whelton said the samples have been shipped to California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and some are staying in West Virginia to be analyzed.

Whelton said since Sunday they have been contacting experts from around the world to put together a panel to review the 10 parts per billion screening level for MCHM.

They have also shipped samples of MCHM and crude MCHM across the country to determine odor threshold levels.

Whelton said once testing is complete on the initial home, they will begin a larger scare water sampling initiative that could include up to thousands of homes.

"Potentially a site would be set up where people can register, and then their name would go into a hat and then a computer program would then randomly pick those houses," Whelton said.

He said his team is eager to bring unbiased, and scientifically sound information to the table.

"It's about helping people, what we're doing here," he explained.

Tomblin has committed $650,000 from his budget for the initial work. He also has asked for federal support to conduct ongoing research addressing short term and long term impacts and more MCMH research.



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