Last week the CSB issued a report & held a meeting in West Virginia on the Freedom Industries spill into the Elk River in January 2014, which contaminated drinking water supplies. In contrast to many of their other public meetings on incidents, however, the CSB encountered a wave of questions from a critical & knowledgeable citizenry. Retired PhD Chemist Phil Price questioned conclusions of the report about what & how much was spilled, when the spill actually started & how long it lasted, and where it went (and who was affected). Retired PhD Chemical Engineer Jim Hatfield offered a FMEA chart of what West Virginia Water needed to do to "spill proof" their water treatment plant, to bring it up to "chemical industry standards". Maya Nye of People Concerned About Chemical Safety was disappointed that there was no recommendation for a long-term effects study, nor a note about the still open CSB recommendation on a West Virginia chemical release prevention program, and indicated dissatisfaction that the CDC did not recommend an inhalation standard for spill component MCHM at elevated temperature (as would be encountered in bathing or showering). Louis Baker of the West Virginia Rural Water Association was concerned about the lack of a prompt spill notification requirement in the West Virginia Source Water Protection regulations, and the lack of any recommendations about this in the CSB report.
Vanessa Sutherland of the CSB seemed taken aback about all of this feedback. In the end, she proposed that the CSB accept the report, with the possible inclusion of public comments submitted by October 1 (three days after the meeting) as an appendix. The Board approved this unanimously. It was an unprecedented action, but it does not appear to have satisfied the critics of the report.
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