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Tomblin officially appeals FEMA aid decision

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin officially requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency change its mind and provide additional money to West Virginia to cover costs associated with the recent massive chemical leak.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Tomblin states the estimated financial impact of the chemical leak on the affected nine county area could top $72 million.

"The key role of state and local agencies in our response is essentially ignored unless they are able to be reimbursed for their part in the responding to this crisis," Tomblin wrote in the letter, released to the public late Tuesday evening.

FEMA originally provided some funding, but not enough to reimburse costs for all of the government agencies' work during a state of emergency that lasted more than 50 days. Tomblin asked for additional funding in early February, which FEMA denied.

"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," a FEMA spokesman said in a statement provided to the Daily Mail after the initial rejection.

The state was allowed to appeal the decision, and spent time trying to tally costs and potential losses to the state due to the spill.

Tomblin's letter outlines some costs, but never really says how officials arrived at the estimated $61 million in losses. A Marshall University study released in early February reached the same total, according to the Charleston Gazette.

The governor's letter didn't reference the study.

It did include charts for some of the costs from each of the nine counties affected. Kanawha County, where the leak happened and epicenter of the 300,000 people who received tainted tap water, projected costs at $7.3 million. The letter also states schools in Kanawha and Putnam counties estimated losing more than $5.5 million in instructional time when schools were closed do to water issues.

The letter seems to indicate the amount spent by the state and counties that could be reimbursable by FEMA -- about $6.5 million -- is more than double the roughly $2.6 million FEMA afforded it under the initial major disaster declaration.

A Tomblin spokeswoman did not return a call requesting comment.

"West Virginia and its subdivisions lack the resources to cover 100 percent of the costs expended to eliminate the threats to public safety caused by the chemical spill," the letter states.

"Collecting costs from the company responsible for the spill is unlikely, considering the company's bankruptcy posture."

Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy in federal court about two weeks after at least 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked from a faulty storage tank it owned. State and federal investigators are still trying to determine how much seeped into the Elk River and eventually contaminated a West Virginia American Water Co. treatment facility about 1.5 miles downstream.

It wasn't immediately clear how much time FEMA has to respond to the appeal.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 


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