W. Virginia residents leery as chemical smell and taste persists in water — Pregnant women at risk

By Shepard Ambellas

Residents in the area are not sure what to think as a chemical odor and taste still lingers in the West Virginia water supply

CHARLESTON (INTELLIHUB) — The recent lifting of the 4-day water ban has caused some controversy after residents still continue to report that a chemical smell and taste is present in the tap water and air deriving from Elk River.

Freedom Industries was found responsible for the Jan. 9 environmental catastrophe in which a chemical spilled onto a nearby riverbank, later reaching a water treatment facility two miles downriver, affecting over 300,000 people’s lives in 9 counties. Bans were put on water usage shortly after the spill due to the toxicity of the chemical and the concentration in the system.

Many businesses, especially hotels and restaurants were affected by the spill as the local economy has suffered a massive downslope.

Freedom Industries was reported to have filed for bankruptcy protection.

However a new debate has arisen in the area as pregnant women were told Wednesday that they should avoid the tap water at all costs, causing confusion amongst some wondering if the water is truly safe to come in contact with or ingest.

Elk River MapThe Guardian reported:

For Sarah Bergstrom, a 29-year-old nurse who is four months pregnant with her second child, the news was devastating. She has not drunk the water since the spill, but she has taken showers. “I cried myself to sleep [Wednesday] night. I was both angry and scared,” she said. “This baby that we’ve wanted for so long, I’m now questioning have I done something that could have harmed her?”

Bergstrom said she is fortunate that she can afford bottled water, which she intends to use for the foreseeable future. “My biggest fear is for those mothers, those pregnant women out there who aren’t able to go get enough bottled water for their family, who don’t have the resources and don’t have the knowledge base to know that this is not safe,” she said.

Karen Bowling, West Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources, said pregnant women who drank the water before being told to avoid it should contact their doctors. For the rest of the population, Bowling said she is confident the tap water is not harmful.

Right now the levels are just below 1 part per million and considered acceptable by EPA standards the state claims, despite the fact that locals are still reporting a bitter-sweet taste and smell.

Another example of a similar situation took place back in late 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Center. At the time, the EPA told everyone in New York City that “the air was safe to breathe”. Later it became known by that the EPA and government officials lied to the general public as many contracted cancers following the attack, proving that the U.S. government simply can’t be trusted.