Since Freedom Industries leaked up to 10,000 gallons of “crude MCHM” as well as a second chemical known as “PPH” into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply to nine counties and hundreds of thousands of people, residents have been concerned with their water.
Even after the water was declared safe, some of those in the affected areas continue to report side effects ranging from diarrhea and uncontrollable vomiting to rashes, blisters, and burns as well as the recognizable licorice smell. Pregnant women and small children are still advised to avoid using the water.
Independent investigations found the presence of alarming amounts of MCHM still inside residential systems. A Marshall University has revealed the presence of formaldehyde in the water, explaining that methanol–a component of “crude mchm”–breaks down into formaldehyde.
Kanawha County School Board President Pete Thaw told WSAZ.com that “unacceptable levels” of MCHM are still found in three county schools. Kanawha County Schools, in partnership with the National Guard and the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, have been testing each of the 69 schools in the county in order to ensure that the levels of the chemical have reached the new “safe” level of ten parts per billion.
Currently, schools are using bottled water for food preparation, drinking, and hand washing; a practice that will continue until water tests at levels of 10 parts per billion. Additional system flushing will take place over the weekend in hopes of the schools’ water being usable by Monday.
Freedom Industries, a company largely free of environmental regulations whose owner has traditionally contributed to politicians who continually vote against regulations pertaining to various aspects of the coal industry, continues to do everything possible to evade responsibility for its actions. Facing multiple civil lawsuits, the company has filed for bankruptcy, shifting the cost onto taxpayers.