The spill of about 7,500 gallons of a chemical substance from a cistern has polluted the Elk River in West Virginia, forcing 300,000 residents of nine counties not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or bathing since Jan. 9. The chemical material, used in coal processing, came out from a tank of the Freedom Industries Inc. complex, near the river. Freedom Industries president apologized for the spill said the company is working with state and federal officials.
The operations to clean up the water of the river Elk Meanwhile go on, and the purification plant near the spill showed only small traces of the toxic chemical substance, ended up in the river. The day before yesterday the Democratic Governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, has decided to revoke a ban on the consumption of tap water in some areas of the State, after the water analysis. An estimated 35,000 residents in Charleston had water restored as of early yesterday, West Virginia American Water said.
Responsibilities have to be ensured, although the lack of controls is obvious. West Virginia Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said the last time the site of the spill was inspected was in 1991. Also the location of the chemical plant to the water was a hazard and the risk is evident.
What is happening right now in West Virginia is unbelievable and not just for the gravity of the situation. There had been other accidents in 2008 and 2009 that brought to a NY Times investigation that revealed violations of pollution laws from some companies in the same valley of the chemical spill case. How many disasters have to happen to change this situation? What is more incredible is that three years ago a team of experts in the United States Chemical Safety Board had asked West Virginia to create a new program to prevent accidents in the Kanawha Valley, the valley of the accident.
No program was established by West Virginia and now the population have to pay the price.
Chemical and mining companies are an important part of W. Virginia economy so there must be a way to prevent future accidents and not to destroy an important part of the state economy. Still, according to the critics, laws and controls aren’t effective to counteract these accidents. Now the damages are visible, the signal is loud and clear: a strengthening of the regulations and the controls of this area is required. These controls shouldn’t affect the economy too much and they have to prevent similar accidents in the future.
References: Bloomberg News
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