The map on the American Water Kanawha Valley website now shows the entire area as blue - i.e. "water is safe*" with the following caveat:
"*According to the CDC, “At this time,
scientists continue to recommend 1 ppm as a protective level to prevent
adverse health effects. However, due to limited availability of data,
and out of an abundance of caution, you may wish to consider an
alternative drinking water source for pregnant women until the chemical
is at non-detectable levels in the water distribution system."
However, the website also says "that customers in Buffalo, Frazier's Bottom and Pliny Remain Under a Do Not Drink/Limited Contact Notice."
According to the CBS Evening News residents of Putnam County, W. Va., who had originally been told their water was safe, received an order by the water company Friday morning instructing them to avoid drinking and to limit
contact with the water.
So the water situation is returning to normal, but the company responsible has filed for bankruptcy. NPR has reported that "According to the bankruptcy documents filed this afternoon and passed
along to us by NPR's Hansi Lo Wang, Freedom Industries lists both assets
and liabilities worth between $1 million and $10 million, with between
200 and 999 estimated creditors. The document was signed by Freedom's
president, Gary Southern.
The Washington Post reports that "It took just one week for Pennsylvania coal mining executive Cliff
Forrest, the new owner of Freedom Industries, to discover that one of
the six-decade-old storage tanks he had acquired Dec. 31 was leaking a
toxic chemical into the Elk River that supplies water to about 300,000
And it took just one more week for Freedom Industries, facing
about 20 lawsuits and a Justice Department investigation, to declare
bankruptcy. On Friday, the besieged company filed for protection under
Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston, W. Va."
The article goes into significantly more detail about the ownership and history of the company,
On NPR on Thursday, Ken Ward, Jr., who covers coal and the environment for the
Charleston Gazette, reported that state environmental inspectors told him when they
went to the storage facility of Freedom Industries they found a 400
square foot pool of liquid several inches deep. And inside that pool... "The word they used was an up-swelling of some of the
chemical. And I said what are you talking about? And they said: Well,
kind of like an artesian well. And I said so it's like you had this
little fountain of chemical coming up. And they said yes." They also say that liquid from that pool was spilling out of the facility and into the Elk River.
According to Ward, "This facility is kind of a nexus where a bunch of different laws
intersect. Federal emergency planning laws for this sort of thing
apparently don't apply to this facility because it's not listed by the
federal Department of Transportation as a hazardous material. So local
emergency planners never looked at it to figure out, you know, what to
do about something like this. The state emergency planners never looked
at it because of that.
There's also federal laws that require
utilities and water regulatory agencies to consider threats to drinking
water sources. There's no evidence that anybody ever day that. I mean
what you have here was a major regional drinking water plant that was
very close to a facility storing significant quantities of toxic
materials. And everybody knew it was there but nobody ever did anything
Makes you wonder how many more of these facilities are out there, accidents just waiting to happen.