Scientists hired by your state government aren’t so sure how the chemicals spilled into the Elk River earlier this year will effect your long-term health, according to new reports issued late Friday afternoon. They say more data is needed to assess long-term public health effects.
The reports are “the latest in a series of studies released by WVTAP, [the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project] the group of scientists hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin under public pressure over lingering and potentially long-term impacts” of the spill, reports the Charleston Gazette.
REFRESHER: On January 9, 2014, a leak in a tank at Freedom Industries released 7,500 gallons of MCHM (a chemical used to wash coal) into the ground by the Elk River—just 1.5 miles upstream from a public water intake. The government issued a “do not use” advisory for some 300,000 people across nine counties. Timeline.
The longest study on MCHM’s long-term effects is only 4 weeks long—on rats.
The study says it can’t tell us the maximum amount of MCHM a person should have in a lifetime (in EPA-speak a “lifetime reference dose“) because “the longest duration toxicology study is only 4 weeks.” The study cited by the report wasn’t even conducted on humans—but rats. (Page 8 of the report, if you want to follow along.)
More great news: We know the spill also leaked two other chemicals into the water supply, PPH and DiPPH. The report also said further research is needed on the long-term effects of those chemicals, too.
No wonder only one-third of Kanawha County residents are drinking tap water.
- The full report from WVTAP
- A great timeline of the spill from The Charleston Daily Mail
- 5 Big Questions Breakdown from The Washington Post