Statement from Dr. Andrew Whelton

2/11/2014

The scale of chemical contamination of Charleston West Virginia’s drinking water has been unprecedented.

Three weeks ago I was in Charleston with a group of University of South Alabama students and faculty testing drinking water and helping homeowners flush their homes.

Many people asked us numerous questions that simply could not be answered.

They could not be answered because limited data were available for the chemicals spilled into the Elk River: their fate, their properties, and most importantly, their impact on human health.

In fact, there is so little data available, many Federal and State agencies, could not and still cannot answer all of the questions West Virginians are demanding be answered.

Some of these questions include:

• Does the 10 ppb level MCHM protect my health?

• Why am I smelling an odor when the MCHM levels are said to be nondetectable?

• What are the chemical levels in my home tap water including PPH?

• Does my hot water contain more MCHM than cold water?

The list goes on…

These are questions that must be answered.

Governor Tomblin and the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) have agreed these questions must be answered.

At the request of the Governor, Jeffrey Rosen, President of Corona Environmental Consulting, along with two of their Senior Scientists, and I, will conduct an independent study to answer key questions and identify research needed to respond to the ongoing crisis.

This project is unprecedented and will engage leading health risk assessment and drinking water odor experts from across the world, and determine the drinking water chemical levels in affected homes.

Over the past several days, Jeff and I have listened to the Governor’s Office input. Three weeks ago my engineering and science team met with affected residents. I also have personally received numerous emails and telephone calls over the past 3 weeks from residents asking the very same questions we are addressing today. Nonprofit organizations have also contacted me. All of these people are asking for help.

Let me be clear, the project Corona Scientists and I have begun is independent.

There are three major objectives to our project:

Objective #1 is to Convene an international panel of experts to examine the West Virginia safety factor applied to their 10 part per billion (ppb) MCHM drinking water screening level. These individuals will be health risk assessment experts recruited from the scientific community.

Objective #2 is to Determine the drinking water odor threshold for MCHM. This action is important because it is possible people can detect MCHM odors at concentrations less than sensitive laboratory instruments can detect. This effort will be completed by some of the most well-known drinking water odor experts in the world.

Objective #3 is to Conduct a focused residential drinking water sampling field study. The collected data will be then used to support the design of a larger more comprehensive program for the nine counties affected.

The projects we have outlined are essential to answering the legitimate questions posed by the community.

Our research will not answer all of the questions.

We will develop a framework for future research that should be conducted to improve our understanding of the health effects, chemical characteristics, and fate. We believe the steps Governor Tomblin and his staff have taken recognize the important concerns raised by the public.

Corona Environmental Consulting and I are eager to help with unbiased, scientifically sound information.

During this past weekend, Jeffrey and I contacted experts across the country to assist in this project. The State of West Virginia rush shipped supplies across the US so that we can begin testing. Today, additional experts from Corona Environmental Consulting flew into Charleston. We are fully committed to helping West Virginians answer their important questions.

How we respond as a Nation to help the people of West Virginia will define how we respond to future drinking water contamination disasters. There is a role for the State and Federal governments as well as scientists across the Nation to provide assistance.

The people affected by this incident need our help.

It is indisputable that West Virginians have been struck by an unprecedented drinking water contamination disaster.
The scientific community and Federal government must find a way to help the people of West Virginia.

Through this project we will help answer important questions the public is asking.

*Statement provided by Dr. Andrew Whelton during press conference