West Virginia Spill Persisted Longer Than Expected | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 3 | p. 21 | Concentrates
Issue Date: January 19, 2015

West Virginia Spill Persisted Longer Than Expected

Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: West Virginia, chemical spill, MCHM, Elk River, USGS

A chemical that leaked into a river and tainted the drinking water supply of some 300,000 residents of the Charleston, W.Va., area last year lingered longer and traveled farther than expected, says the U.S. Geological Survey. The primary component of the spill, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), was present in municipal tap water more than six weeks after the spill began, although concentrations decreased over time, USGS says in a report. In addition, MCHM was present in the Elk River at low concentrations six days after the incident began, and the spill’s plume traveled at least 390 miles downriver from where the chemical escaped from a leaking storage tank. In response to the incident, West Virginia lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House introduced bills in 2014 that would have updated minimum state requirements for tank construction and inspections. The legislation focused on facilities posing risks to drinking water supplies, and it would have required inspections of those facilities more frequently than others. Although those bills were not advanced, similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the current Congress.

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