While members of Congress duel over legislative safeguards to prevent future spills, West Virginia officials say immediate action is needed to deal with fallout from a chemical leak that led to a partial drinking-water ban in the state last month.
"West Virginians need answers now," Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Tuesday at a Senate subcommittee hearing. "People are fed up. They are angry, and they are scared."
Back-and-forth among state and local authorities over drinking-water contamination has caused public distrust and sparked concern that the water from the Elk River near Charleston still poses a threat to public health.
In mid-January, health officials in the state cautioned pregnant women against drinking the water despite the fact that the ban on drinking water had already been lifted.
Adding fuel to the fire, reports surfaced late last month that the chemical that had leaked into the river — a form of methanol known as MCHM — may be breaking down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
"Lack of consistent, trustworthy information has been among our greatest challenges and frustrations in the aftermath of the Elk River chemical spill," Tennant told the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.