CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reimburse costs associated with responding to the chemical leak that continues to affect central West Virginia.
In an announcement, Tomblin provided a copy of the rejection letter and pledged to appeal the decision.
"Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the event was not of such severity and magnitude as to warrant grant assistance under this emergency declaration," wrote Elizabeth Zimmerman, a FEMA official, in the rejection letter sent Monday.
Tomblin's request, made Jan. 27, was for reimbursement of "emergency protective measures."
Emergency protective measures are actions taken before, during or after a crisis in order to prevent threats to public health and safety, according to the FEMA website.
They can also be measures that "eliminate or reduce an immediate threat of significant damage to improved public or private property through cost-effective measures," the website states.
Officials learned Jan. 9 that thousands of gallons of chemicals were leaking from faulty storage tank owned by Freedom Industries into the Elk River. By that evening, the chemicals had overwhelmed the local West Virginia American Water Co. treatment plant, leaving 300,000 West Virginians without usable tap water.
While the "do not use" advisory was lifted within two weeks of the spill, residents continue to distrust the water and facilities -- mostly schools -- continue to show signs of chemicals in the water.
Tomblin said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision and personally contacted the head of FEMA to let him know he was concerned about the ruling.
"We are committed to providing the detail necessary to demonstrate the assistance needed by the public safety agencies that have provided support to citizens since this crisis struck more than one month ago," Tomblin said in the release.
Tomblin declared a state of emergency the night the spill was detected and requested aid from FEMA at the time. That request was granted, with FEMA providing more than 7 million liters of water and 130,000 meals, said FEMA spokesman Dan Watson in an email Wednesday.
"While the initial emergency declaration was approved and resources were provided to support the immediate response, it was determined that in this case certain costs associated with the response and recovery efforts were not beyond the response and recovery capabilities of state and local governments to necessitate additional federal assistance beyond the emergency declaration already provided," Watson said in the email.
U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also made statements calling on FEMA to reverse its decision.