This January 9, it was announced that a chemical spill at Freedom Industries on the banks of the Elk River in West Virginia had contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people. Since then, there have been a series of “all clears” announced and then retracted or modified. Still, schools in three counties remain closed to date because the water is still not safe to drink.
Rachel Maddow talked about the situation on her show on Monday, running through the chronology of the disaster, from the 9th to Monday.
She explained the initial reactions and steps taken to deal with the spill, noting that no one seemed to be sure what had been spilled, “but they apparently began working under the assumption that the chemical that spilled is a chemical that was commonly used in water treatment.”
“The president of the water company said in a news conference that day that his company was ‘fairly confident’ that his company could treat the chemical.”
Of course that was not the case. As we now know, the chemical was MCHM, which is used in processing coal not water and can have very unpleasant effects on the human body, ranging from rashes and burns to vomiting and diarrhea.
The first all clear was given on Monday, January 13 to certain areas as a phased approach to lifting the ban was initiated. The authorities issued detailed instructions for flushing the contaminated water from their pipes before using the water for showers and drinking.
“On Wednesday, two days after saying the water was okay to drink, the directive changed. Pregnant women were cautioned not to drink the water at all until it was completely free of the chemical,” Maddow noted.
Another all clear was issued on Friday, but later the same day Putnam County residents began to complain that the water still smelled of the chemical and was undrinkable. Later tests proved the residents right, the water was still not safe to drink and a new do not use order was issued for the county that same day.
To date, 411 people have been treated for chemical exposure at 10 West Virginia hospitals, even as the governor’s office is telling the people not to jump to conclusions because it is after all “flu and virus season.”
Watch Rachel’s comments in the video below from MSNBC: