Katie Valentine follows up on the chemical spill that contaminated 300,000 West Virginians’ drinking water two weeks ago:
Though the water ban has been lifted in West Virginia, many residents are still wary about using their tap water. On Monday, Kanawha County started distributing its final round of bottled water, and one resident told the Charleston Gazette that he’s still not drinking or cooking with the water. In the days after the water was deemed safe by officials, chemical-related hospital emissions doubled in Charleston, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also gave West Virginians a scare by saying pregnant women shouldn’t drink any tap water, despite water company assurances that the water was safe. And yesterday, West Virginia Delegate Tiffany Lawrence said using flushed water after the ban was lifted led to an staph infection, and said she “should have known better” than to use the water after seeing the sediment left by it in the sink.
Freedom Industries, the company behind the spill, waited until last week to inform officials that there was a second chemical involved in the spill, which they declined to identify precisely because it is proprietary:
Stripped PPH was mixed in with the other chemicals in the drum at a concentration of about 6 percent. A material safety data sheet (MSDS) provided to state officials says stripped PPH contains a complex mixture of polyglycol ethers. “The specific chemical identity is being withheld as ‘trade secret,’” the company wrote in the safety document, which was dated Oct. 15, 2013. According to the MSDS, stripped PPH causes skin irritation and “serious” eye irritation. Workers are warned to wear protective gloves, goggles, and face protection whenever they work with it. And in case of a chemical spill? “Persons not wearing protective equipment should be excluded from the area of the spill until cleanup has been completed.”
Paul Barrett finds that pretty galling:
Let that sink in. The company that stored dangerous chemicals on a river bank, a mile and a half upstream from the intake to the region’s public water supply, wants to protect trade secrets about its polyglycol ethers recipe. In New York, we call that chutzpah. Are the people who own and run this company aware that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston is conducting a criminal investigation?