AFTER reading B.J. Garner's Feb. 4 commentary in the Daily Mail, I feel compelled to respond. I am not an epidemiologist or a chemist, but I have serious concerns regarding the Centers for Disease Control's 1 part per million safe exposure level, a concern heightened by the inconsistent and confusing explanations given at the governor's Feb. 5 press conference.
And while I concur with Mr. Garner regarding the failures of Freedom Industries, West Virginia American Water Co. and the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection during this crisis, I disagree on a number of important points:
"[T]he water issue is temporary and will soon pass."
Too little is known about the chemical's effect on human health, its reaction and breakdown upon contact with other chemicals and materials, and the amount of time required to completely flush MCHM and its byproducts from our systems and environment. For these exact reasons, the National Science Foundation issued a $150,000 rapid response research grant for further study.
A temporary issue? Nobody knows. But as people grow ever weary and the odor dissipates, daily concerns about the situation will pass, but unknown dangers will likely persist.
"What will not soon pass are the actions of near-panic activist groups and the residual public image left behind for our state."
The contamination of the state's largest water system with a little-known chemical — powerful enough to send hundreds to the hospital with severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, eye and skin irritation and respiratory distress, and which leaves 300,000 people without potable water for weeks — demands a near-panic response. If ever there was a time to act, it is now.
The only public image crisis West Virginia faces is if our citizens fail to act, further perpetuating a victims' mentality too common in this state. For too long, we have allowed industry and special interests to write and (fail to) enforce regulations, and to successfully lobby against reasonable protective measures. The nation looks on in disbelief — how could a state's elected representatives subject its people to the unchecked excesses of these industries?
Do we want a public image of a servile population that allows bad things to happen unchallenged; or rather, of a people willing to stand up and fight for our families and for our state, to finally say enough is enough.
"The DEP is a public gatekeeper for safe water supply, and its defined role should clearly include responsibility for advising delegates of loopholes in laws for public safety."