Last Thursday, 7,500 gallons of MCHM spilled from coal processing plant Freedom Industries into the Elk River, a mile and a half upstream from the intake pipes for WVAW, which serves nine counties.
During a press conference Monday, state officials and executives from the West Virginia American Water utility company announced that the presence of MCHM in the water supply had reached a “safe” level of one part per million (1 ppm).
However, because such little data exists on MCHM, particularly its effects on human health, scientists are questioning the method used to derive these safe limits.
Richard Denison, senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said the government calculation of 1ppm appeared to be based on a single study by the chemical’s manufacturer, never published, and that it included several “significant leaps in their calculation of a ‘safe’ exposure level.”
Further, Denison notes that the officials’ calculations “utterly fail to account for chronic health effects from longer-term exposure to water contaminated at the 1 ppm level.”
“Based on what we do know, there are good reasons to believe that officials are overlooking significant health risks,” he added.
After the ban was lifted, residents were quick to post photos of the allegedly “safe” water online.
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