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CDC Uses Word "Safe" To Describe Water In Affected Counties

Reported: Feb. 24, 2014 10:57 AM EST
Updated: Feb. 24, 2014 5:53 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jeff Morris) – A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control said Monday that the agency is now using the word “safe” to describe the tap water that was contaminated by a Jan. 9 chemical spill.

“It’s a change – we are actually using the word safe,” Barbara Reynolds with the CDC said in a phone interview with Eyewitness News.

Reynolds said the CDC, however, is not making a change in what it is recommending as far as the use of the water. She said on Feb. 5, the agency was saying that there was no adverse effects from MCHM when it was below 1 parts per million and the water is appropriate for use.

“We have been saying we feel it is safe to consume, to drink and bathe in,” Reynolds said. “We were saying that Feb. 5.”

The CDC spokeswoman said saying something is safe is a “different thing” for a toxicologist than a layman, and the agency understands that people are still fearful.

“I don’t want to minimize the fact that people are still smelling chemicals, and it’s also important for people to flush properly if they do think anything is lingering,” Reynolds said.

Later in the day, Reynolds, who is the director of the Division of Public Affairs, issued a statement regarding the agency's stance on the safety of the water.

“Based on what we know, if the water is at non-detectable levels for MCHM, it is safe to drink, bathe in and clean with, and this would include for pregnant women. We also want to recognize that any faint MCHM-related smell could be off putting and that proper flushing of water lines is important," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said CDC's original 1 ppm threshold was a conservative calculation "below which we believe there would be no adverse health effects. That calculation has been supported after rigorous scientific review. "

In the statement, the CDC spokesman said that on Feb. 5 the CDC said that based on the non-detect testing results, people could drink, bathe in and clean with the water. Further, while a toxicologist does not speak precisely in terms of safe or not safe-saying "safe" here is a less scientific way of restating our belief about how the water can be used, which we shared Feb. 5,” Reynolds said.

Meanwhile, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources released a statement regarding the recent remarks by the CDC.

“DHHR agrees with the above statement provided by the CDC. It is consistent with what we have said throughout this crisis. We are pleased that the CDC has taken this step to clarify its position,” the DHHR said.

-- Centers for Disease Control Photo



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