U.S. Chemical Safety Board share initial findings in chemical le - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

U.S. Chemical Safety Board shares initial findings in chemical leak investigation

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Courtesy: U.S. Chemical Safety Board Courtesy: U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Lead U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigator Johnnie Banks showed a picture at the bottom of a storage tank at Freedom Industries--two holes, both less then 20 millimeters. The holes were found in the same storage tank that leaked at least 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM last month.

"We're going to take samples of that tank and find out how corrosion happened and to try to make recommendations of what materials should be recommended to build this tank," said Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

It was one of several discoveries announced at a congressional hearing in Charleston Monday. Local leaders spent most of the time explaining how they restored drinking water to 300,000 people after a massive chemical leak.

"Due to the lack of available water in Cabell County and surrounding counties by private vendors, a decision was made to send two Cabell County EMS personnel to Louisa, Kentucky to purchase bottled water and hand sanitizer," said Gordon Merry, the director of Cabell County Emergency Services.

Officials also shared new information about Freedom Industries. The company had hired its own inspectors just three months before the spill, according to Moure-Eraso's testimony. The report found the tanks did not meet federal standards.

But conversation returned to the most-asked question of the crisis: Is the water safe?

Everyone had something to share, except for a straight answer.

"As a water company, we don't set the safe standards but we are in compliance with all the standards set by the state agencies," said Jeff McIntyre, the president of West Virginia American Water.

One state official drew an analogy to jumping off a bridge.

"Everybody has a different definition of safe," said Dr. Tierney, the commissioner for the state bureau of public health. "As I used the example before, some people think it's ok to jump off a bridge at Bridge Day. I don't personally think that's safe."

The answers failed to satisfy the committee's chairperson.

"I think everyone's going to dance around the question," said Rep. Shuster (R-PA). "I don't know exactly why but I suspect the main reason why is everyone's afraid of getting sued."

Moure-Erasco said in order to give "scientific answers" about whether the water is safe, he needs more "scientific data." He cited two available studies on MCHM, conducted by the chemical's manufacturer. Moure-Eraso did share one thing he was willing to say.

"We should haven't these chemicals in our water period," he said.