By Matt Murphy
Charleston Daily Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department called for long-term surveillance of medical issues related to the Jan. 9 chemical leak during a town hall meeting Wednesday night.
At least one state lawmaker and a nationally known environmental activist seconded the idea at the meeting, which was hosted by WCHS-TV.
At the same meeting, the director of the state Department of Environmental Protection said his department is testing effluent from users of crude MCHM statewide to see if the chemical is escaping into waterways.
The town hall was held at the Clay Center and was sponsored by local television station WCHS, whose news anchors moderated the event.
Panelists included Health Department Director Dr. Rahul Gupta, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman, DEP Homeland Security & Emergency Response Chief Mike Dorsey, environmental activist Erin Brockovich, and her environmental investigator, Bob Bowcock. A representative for Sen. Jay Rockefeller was also present.
A representative of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Johnny Banks, dropped out of the event before it began. WCHS said it also invited representatives from West Virginia American Water and Freedom Industries, but both declined to attend.
Gupta said he wants to see medical surveillance and some form of medical monitoring for the next 10 to 15 years to address any possible long-term effects of the Crude MCHM chemical spill, which contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people.
“We are the first human beings this chemical has been experimented on,” Gupta said, later adding, “Folks who show up at emergency rooms or doctor’s offices are the tip of the iceberg.”
As the panel took questions from the audience, one South Hills resident said she had been getting rashes on her hand after using the water.
Gupta told her she was not alone and that the department has received numerous reports of symptoms like rashes, nausea and vomiting since the leak, though it isn’t clear whether the chemical is the direct cause of the medical cases…