Toledo Water Crisis Report: Perspective, What do we know?

Late Monday afternoon August 4, the City of Toledo released their Preliminary Water Crisis Study Report. This report describes some of the data and actions taken during the recent large-scale tap water contamination incident. Earlier in the day, the Mayor of Toledo declared tap water safe to drink for the entire 500,000 person area. The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department then issued guidance to residents and businesses on how to flush their plumbing systems.

I provided some thoughts about their report below mainly focusing on tap water contamination response and recovery. In short, their preliminary report does not address many questions pertaining to the degree scientific principles were considered in water use, water testing, and flushing recommendations. The report also does not answer many of the public’s remaining questions. For an incident that affected 500,000 people, residents being told to flush contaminated water into their homes, and that the new water is safe, the lack of information provided by officials as of today is remarkable. Hopefully someone explains what happened and what data they used to make decisions in the coming days.

WheltonTweet Ban and Lack of Data

Who actually was involved in the response and decisions remains somewhat of a mystery

The report cites the Mayor, City of Toledo, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, the Oregon treatment plant, Lake Superior University, Ohio EPA Columbus, and US EPA Cincinnati, but has no mention of CDC. According to the report the organizations listed above were the only organizations that had a hand in the data collection, analysis, reporting, and decision making process. Publicly, the health department proclaimed CDC was involved during an interview.  But CDC was not listed in the City of Toledo report? Who was involved and what advice did they provide? This is important information as it can clarify why certain decisions were made and who provided information.  I know many folks in the drinking water industry including other water companies and experts that contacted Ohio organizations involved and offered assistance. From what I understand, responders did not accept any assistance except from the few organizations listed above. Even so, they seem to have had contact with other organizations they did not disclose in their report (i.e., CDC).

Did officials mislead the public? It was really a Do Not Use order for some of the residents

The report portrays the responders considering the incident as a Do Not Drink /Do Not Boil Order, but that is not quite accurate. After issuing the Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil Order, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department actually went further and publicly advised immunocompromised persons, children, and breastfeeding individuals not to have any contact with the water. That’s not a Do Not Drink Order. That’s a Do Not Use Order more similar to what was issued in West Virginia following the Crude MCHM Chemical Spill where 300,000 people were denied access to tap water for up to 10 days. The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department also advised people it was okay to brush their teeth with the contaminated water, then pulled back on that recommendation a day later. These conflicting messages implied that the responders were creating guidance on the fly, and/or did not understand what a Do Not Drink Order was.  The media kept reporting Do Not Drink orders, but the Health Department was advising the population to do more than simply not drink the water. The incident was a Do Not Use order for some people not just a Do Not Drink /Do Not Boil order.

Some of the reported microcystin data could be suspect because of water collection practices. It was a good decision to use multiple labs.

Water samples that were shipped to Lake Superior State University had chlorine residual present. Microcystin (toxin) is known to react and degrade (and transform into other compounds) when exposed to chlorine. Thus, during shipping some of the toxin could have been destroyed or transformed into other compounds. To limit these changes, chlorine residual neutralization should have been considered once the water was collected. No justification of why samples were allowed to react with chlorine during transport (or not) was provided. Microcystin experts reading this will likely have more insight into the analytical methods. Kudos to Lake Superior State University for their work on this effort. Great to see independent experts involved. It would be helpful if officials could explain their methods.

Were the water samples collected representative of the highest chemical levels in the water  system and at exposure locations?

During a quick response, responders generally collect water at easy to access locations such as at the source (i.e., Lake Erie), water plant, and within in the water distribution system (i.e., hydrants, restaurants, etc). This information is important to understand the scale of contamination (where the tainted water is). After tap water leaves the treatment plant, it does however take tap water different times to travel to different parts of the community so some tap water may be newer in certain other parts of the water system. Why were certain water distribution system locations selected for sampling? Do they  represent the entire water system or are they biased? Reasoning why the certain locations were selected was not provided in the report. Did the responders sample to find out the highest chemical levels in the water distribution system? Were they representative?

Also important to point out is that tap water quality at a fire hydrant is not necessarily the same as tap water quality in a residential building. It remains unclear if responders tested in-home locations. [BP Gas station plumbing systems are not the same as two story home plumbing systems, dormitories, or apartment complexes].Restaurants, government buildings, hydrants, gas stations, etc. were some of the tap water collection points. This is similar to West Virginia’s initial response. West Virginia only tested hydrants, government buildings, and businesses. But, the question everyone asked in West Virginia that turned out to be important was what chemical levels were in found at the exposure points….within people’s homes?

If Toledo learned from West Virginia, they would have considered sampling in homes. What did they do and why did they do it?

The plumbing system flushing protocol was never tested before residents were told to partake

The ability of the flushing protocol to reduce chemical levels within homes was never tested. The reason for this decision by the responders was not described in the report. Moreover, no personal safety guidance was provided to residents about how to avoid tap water chemical exposure during flushing. Was it okay to flush hot water with your children in the room or house? (see below for some scientific analysis)

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department plumbing system flushing guidelines were nearly identical to those used in West Virginia (where people experienced acute chemical exposure symptoms while following those guidelines). Similar to West Virginia’s flushing guidelines, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department guidelines are also similar to those when tap water with high levels of pipe corrosion products such lead and copper needs to be removed from plumbing systems. Water utilities have a long history of flushing certain chemicals out of their system to include lead, copper, iron, sediment, etc. I am not aware of any existing protocols for flushing microcystin contaminated tap water from homes however. This could be the first. What conditions would have been needed for officials to “test” the protocol before directing residents to partake?

There are key differences between the Toledo and West Virginia tap water contamination incidents that pertaining to flushing. Chemicals in West Virginia’s tap water were volatile meaning that they would readily evaporate from water into air. When West Virginians opened their taps to flush contaminated tap water, chemicals volatilized into the air. Flushing hot water in West Virginia exacerbated this problem. Many homes in West Virginia my team visited had poor ventilation bathrooms and chemically contaminated air accumulated. Like the West Virginia incident, hot water flushing was recommended in Toledo. But, in Toledo, microcystin (and likely its degradation products) were much less volatile. So, the probability of chemicals in Toledo’s water evaporating into air was much less. Still, should hot water flushing been recommended in Ohio knowing that organic chemicals volatilize into air faster than cold water?

As of August 5, no increased reports of acute chemical exposure symptoms had been reported in the Toledo area which is a good sign. I hope they address this topic in the coming days.

In Closing…

The Toledo incident again demonstrates that in the US, large portions of our population can be denied access to safe tap water and responding to contamination incidents is very complex. Seven months ago 15% of the people who live in West Virginia experienced something very similar.

I have no doubt officials responding to the Toledo incident worked very long hours, likely days without sleep and sacrificed many hours away from family and friends to help. We will never know the names of many of these individuals, but they should be widely thanked for their service in helping investigate and recover the community from this incident. These individuals helped out because they care about the health and welfare of the community similar to what I witnessed in West Virginia.

Several hours after the City Council meeting we have a little more information, but not much. According to the City of Toledo, EPA still has not released all of their data. There were tremendous data release delays by Federal government agencies during the West Virginia crisis. Federal agencies, from my perspective, were at times completely detached from the timeline of people who lived through the incident. The State of West Virginia requested numerous times for Federal agencies to provide data and results took months to obtain. Federal agencies were on their own timetable. Will that be the case in Ohio?

If residents affected by this incident are to feel confident in their tap water and officials, they need and deserve answers soon. If the Nation is to learn from this incident, more information must be made public. While there clearly is a need for improved nutrient control near Lake Erie, communities across the Nation can benefit from learning about the good and bad of this large-scale tap water contamination response. It’s inevitable; We all need safe tap water and these incidents will happen again.

Sincerely,

Andrew Whelton, Ph.D.

NOTE: This post could be revised if information is brought to my attention requiring the post to be revised. Revision explanations, if any, will be posted at the bottom of the page. 
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Toledo and Surrounding Area: When they Tell you to Flush Toxin Tap Water from Your Homes ….

Dear Toledo Residents Affected by the Tap Water Contamination Incident:
I am sorry that you were affected by this contaminated tap water incident. As of 9pm EST Sunday August 3, the responders have not made public really any information (who’s involved, who’s providing advice, sampling results, locations, an explicit step-wise strategy, etc.). There is no single website you can go to find all of the information. Conflicting information has been released about what is and is not recommended for tap water contact. This no doubt is frustrating and you are a resilient community that has kept good spirit. The bottled water provisions and your National Guard are downright tremendous. Many acts of kindness from your community and across the state are touching. Many people across the country are thinking about you.
Hopefully, over the next couple days, the officials will shift your incident into one of recovery. As of right now, they seem to still be trying to figure out the extent of contamination. [If they had released data, this would be more clear].
Officials will likely mandate flushing of the buried water pipes, storage tanks, and decontamination of your home plumbing systems. After, of course, the results of the water testing inside resident homes are released (if any). Officials will likely recommend that you purge contaminated water from your home plumbing systems. You need to be aware of a few issues for the protection of your friends and family.
Shortly after the January 2014 West Virginia Chemical Spill in and large-scale tap water contamination incident, my students and I drove to West Virginia to help those affected. We were unfunded at the time, but in the coming weeks the NSF provided us emergency funding because of the scientific emergency need there. Prior to being a faculty member, I worked for the US Army and in research positions examining chemical fate in plumbing systems including decontamination. You can find our experiences on our website http://www.southce.org/ajwhelton and those for which I was asked by West Virginia Governor Tomblin to assist the state respond at http://www.WVTAPprogram.com.
In West Virginia, before being called in by the West Virginia Governor’s office to assist them, my university team discovered that the plumbing system flushing protocol endorsed by the State, EPA, CDC, water utility, and health departments caused many people (including myself and a student) to become ill. When we arrived residents were being told to flush their plumbing systems using this protocol. My team and I flushed several resident homes in an effort to determine how well the method worked.
Of the many issues with the West Virginia protocol, flushing hot water was recommended [bad idea], only flushing one time for 15 minutes was recommended [bad idea], and the protocol was never field tested to see if it worked so the population tested it on themselves [bad idea]. There were many other issues with this protocol which did not warn people about personal safety (gloves, masks, chemical sensitivity, pregnant individuals), rooms with poor or no ventilation (no windows, vent fans, etc.) [bad, bad ideas]. Nonetheless, none of the Federal and State organizations involved expressed concern about this before the 300,000 residents were directed to flush their plumbing systems. I pasted a weblink to the West Virginia protocol below. DO NOT directly apply the West Virginia approach in Toledo.
During the next week, you will embark on an effort to recover your plumbing systems and purge this contaminated water. Officials will ask you to take certain actions. It is critically important what you are told to do does NOT expose you or your family to harmful vapors. The Crude MCHM contaminated tap water in West Virginia had a very sharp, intense licorice odor. You could tell if you were being exposed. [In Toledo, microcystin and its degradation products, to my knowledge, do not have odor.] EPA, CDC, West Virginia, and the water utility in West Virginia all endorsed the flushing protocol that exposed West Virginians (and my team) to chemical vapors. No agency objected to the protocol which ultimately harmed some people. It is not logical to think that Ohio will be different if the same organizations are involved. Even more, information about who’s actually providing technical assistance to the responders is not even available. It could be some of the exact same people. You should ask the officials to know who is involved in this response and what their justifications are for the decisions they make.
NSF_LogoDuring the West Virginia incident, the US National Science Foundation provided my team RAPID funding to provide guidance on how to flush chemically contaminated plumbing systems. We conducted RAPID experiments to obtain data, tested tap water in homes, and made some very important discoveries. Some of those are listed above and others below.
  1. External parties should provide feedback on the protocol (not just people in the Emergency Operations Center or affiliated government agencies).
  2. All buried water assets should be purged of contaminated water….but assume some were not fully decon’d because of the complexity of the buried water distribution system.
  3. A protocol should be developed and pilot tested at a few homes (not government buildings). This would help officials headoff any unexpected issues (see West Virginia).
  4. Water testing before during and after flushing several homes should be conducted to determine its effectiveness. This will take 2-4 days. If this is not done, Toledo residents run the risk of being another example of what happens when responders ask you to see if the protocol works before they test it. Do not be their experiment.
  5. There are more recommendations…You can download an excerpt from our 2014 AWWA West Virginia presentation where we discussed some of our flushing findings here: Whelton WV pres for OH.
Drinking water contamination incidents are specialized crises. They require individuals with specialized skills not simply organizational affiliations. It is critically important your officials engage experts who know what to think about…and what not to do. There is a step-wise process for responding/ investigating, and recovering from an incident like you are experiencing. The playbook should not be written on the fly. 
I have offered my assistance to the Ohio Governor’s Office, State Agencies, Mayor’s office, Health Department, and water utility because I truly want to make certain you, your family, and friend’s health is protected. There is no reason why you cannot benefit from the lessons we learned in West Virginia.  
Sincerely,
Andrew J. Whelton, Ph.D.

–DO NOT FOLLOW THE WEST VIRGINIA DIRECTIONS–

West Virginia flushing directions [---NOT RECOMMENDED FOR TOLEDO---] here: WV – How to flush
Grad student LaKia McMillan samples water inside a West Virginia home in January 2014 as part of our NSF funded plumbing system decontamination project.

Grad student LaKia McMillan samples water inside a West Virginia home in January 2014 as part of our NSF funded plumbing system decontamination project.

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New CRUDE MCHM Toxicity Results Presented at NACCHO 2014, Atlanta, Georgia

NACCHO ConfOn July 10, 2014 Dr. Andrew Whelton will release new CRUDE MCHM toxicity data during the closing plenary session of the National Association of City and County Health Officials Conference (NACCHO). The NACCHO event is being held in Atlanta, Georgia and is providing  local health officials and their public health partners from around the country information needed to improve public health for the people they serve. The closing plenary session focuses on what city and county health officials can do prepare to respond to large-scale drinking water contamination incidents. The other closing speakers include Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, Major General James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard, and Dr. David Latif of the University of Charleston.
Whelton’s presentation centers around the role of science during the West Virginia Water Crisis and, how by the application of sound science and engineering principles, professionals can help communities respond to and recover from disasters. Much of his presentation highlights the work carried-out by his students, faculty colleagues, and the international WVTAP team of experts.
The July 10 National Association of City and County Health Officials Conference presentation PDF file can be downloaded here: Whelton NACCHO Presentation File.
The new data to be released by Whelton’s National Science Foundation research group reveals several key findings. Graduate student Caroline Novy was instrumental in the conduct of this work.
  • CRUDE MCHM was much more toxic to the freshwater indicator organism Daphnia magna than what Eastman Chemical Company found in their 1998 study. 
  • Whelton’s team determined, by applying a 48 hour exposure test, an effective concentration (EC50) of CRUDE MCHM of about 50 mg/L and a No Observed Effect Level (NOEC) of 6.25 mg/L. In contrast, Eastman Chemical Company’s 1998 report cited an EC50 of 98.1 mg/L and NOEC of 50 mg/L. The lower the EC50 and NOEC, the less amount of CRUDE MCHM is needed to cause toxicity.
  • Further complicating toxicity data reported by Eastman Chemical Company is that on their own CRUDE MSDS sheets from 2005 and 2011 the NOEC value reported was actually 40 mg/L, not 50 mg/L as they reported in the 1998 toxicity testing final report.
Dr. Whelton has mentioned that his team followed nearly identical experimental conditions to those applied by Eastman Chemical Company in 1998 (i.e., water chemistry, same concentrations, photo period, duplicates). However, Whelton’s group did deviate by replicating their testing three different times as they wanted to be certain of the result. Eastman Chemical Company only reported conducting toxicity testing once with this organism.
NSF_LogoFunding for the results presented by Whelton was provided by the US National Science Foundation Engineering RAPID Program award #1424627. 
Andrew’s research team is scheduled to deliver presentations at several upcoming events to include the AWWA Water Quality and Technology, Society of Environmental Journalists, and Society for Risk Analysis Conferences and Washington State Community College. These presentations may include additional findings from their ongoing research. [Every presentation his teams have delivered since the incident occurred has contained new data]
Dr. Whelton’s team can also be followed on Twitter at @TheWheltonGroup and on their blog. With a background in water system threat identification, contamination/decontamination procedures, preparedness exercises and chemical-material interaction research, his multidisciplinary team and collaborators are available to assist States, Health Departments, and Water Utilities better plan for, respond, and recover from drinking water disasters. Questions about the NACCHO file or related materials should be directed to Dr. Whelton.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The CRUDE MCHM aquatic toxicity information described in the presentation is not part of the WVTAP project funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. For information about the WVTAP project please visit the WVTAP website here.
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Green Buildings and Green Pipe: Drinking Water Odor, Chemicals, and Plastics in Real Buildings

Earlier this week, University of South Alabama graduate student Matt Connell, presented new drinking water impact results regarding plastic pipes in green buildings. At the American Water Works Association annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts, Connell discussed the degree chemicals leach from popular plastic plumbing pipes such as polyvinylchloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), along with crosslinked polyethylene (PEX). Connell also reported data from the research team’s analysis of drinking water quality impacts caused by polypropylene pipes (PP), plastics that are gaining wider acceptance in US hospitals and grocery stores for potable water transport. According to Connell’s earlier research, PEX is the least expensive type of domestic hot water plastic pipe ($0.48/ft), while polypropylene is the most expensive plastic ($0.94/ft). The PP pipe tested is well-known for it’s “green color”. A day earlier, Dr. Andrew Whelton, an Environmental Engineering Professor, described drinking water odor and chemical leaching results for six different brands of PEX pipe.
In addition to laboratory testing of PEX and PP pipes, Connell tested tap water from PEX pipe plumbed buildings located in Colorado, Maryland, and Oklahoma. All pipes tested were stamped with labels indicating they had successfully past the NSFI Standard 61 – Health Effects test commonly used for plumbing materials in the USA.
The research described by Connell was part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Environmental Engineering Professor Andrew Whelton, Chemistry Professor Alexandra Stenson, and Watershed, LLC Managing Principal Rebecca Bryant. The project goal is to develop the information needed for building professionals to improve indoor drinking water quality in green buildings. A copy of Matt Connell’s downloadable AWWA presentation can be found here: Connell AWWA Pres 06102014.
In conclusion, the researchers found:
  1. The single brand of PP, PVC, and HDPE pipe tested never exceeded a 100 ug/L assimiable organic carbon (AOC) “threshold for bacterial regrowth,” and 5 of 8 PEX pipe brands exceeded the threshold at some point during the 28 day study. However, AOC release was highly variable across PEX pipe brands where some pipes did not impart any AOC to the water. AOC measurement is applied by scientists and engineers to estimate the potential that bacteria can grow in water.
  2. A direct comparison between three pipes, two PEX pipes and a single PP brand revealed the single brand of PP pipe tested caused less odor compared to the two PEX pipes examined.
  3. All three pipes released regulated and unregulated chemicals into drinking water that included pipe manufacture ingredients and their degradation products. There were wide variations between the magnitude of chemicals released by PEX pipes. One PEX pipe significantly altered drinking water quality while the other did not.
  4. Where one PEX pipe plumbing system was tested in Colorado, Maryland, and Oklahoma, chemicals were found in building tap water were associated with PEX pipe ingredients and degradation products. Odors were also present in building tap waters, but only tap water within one home had odor levels different from the water distribution system (before water entered the PEX plumbing system). Chemicals identified in the third home’s tap water were found above the level at which they would cause odor problems.
The research is part of a three year project being funded by the National Science Foundation. The following individuals have participated in this project: USA graduate students Keven Kelley, Jeff Gill, Markus Moore; Undergraduate civil engineering students Rachael Cooley, Logan Dunn, William Radcliffe, chemistry students Raj Ghosal, Shelby Boyd, and business student Luis Navarro.
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PEX Pipe, West Virginia MCHM Plumbing System Interaction Results

AWWA Pres WheltonNew data was released June 9 suggesting mixed results by West Virginia authorities’ flushing protocol following a large-scale drinking water contamination incident earlier this year. The research results also show some, but limited, chemical permeation by one type of residential plastic piping. Dr. Whelton presented the findings at the American Water Works Association annual conference in Boston along with additional data pertaining to another NSF funded project. The West Virginia research focused on the aftermath of the January leak that affected 300,000 people around Charleston. A copy of the downloadable PDF presentation can be found here: Whelton AWWA pres Jun ’14. [This file describes results of two (2) different projects. The West Virginia research is the second project described.]
“Crosslinked polyethylene pipes, which can be found in any local building supply store, are increasingly being used in US residential and commercial plumbing systems. This material is nearly six times less expensive compared to traditional copper piping,” Whelton said. “While plastic pipes have certain benefits, there remains a lack of information involving their interaction with chemicals.”
Whelton and a team of USA researchers traveled to West Virginia after several thousand gallons of CRUDE 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), used in coal processing, leaked into the Elk River. The leak occurred 1.5 miles upstream of the regional water utility treatment plant’s intake. The leak was discovered Jan. 9 after residents detected a licorice odor, leading to a temporary water use ban and water safety concerns. Contaminated water was distributed to a nine county area and into more than 87,000 buildings.
The USA researchers helped residents flush out their plumbing systems and began collecting data to try to determine what effect the contaminated water might have on plumbing systems and the water flowing through them. During their in-home sampling they found several homes contained crosslinked polyethylene water pipes in addition to other plastic and metal pipes.
Bryson YouTubeVideo FlushingThe utility, West Virginia American Water, whose filters were contaminated by the Freedom Industries spill told residents to flush all hot water taps for 15 minutes, followed by cold water taps for 5 minutes, then all remaining faucets and appliances. Whelton’s team advised residents to take additional steps by turning off hot water heaters before flushing, flush a single faucet at a time, and to ventilate buildings during flushing. Their concerns were that chemical exposure should be more limited and that a single flush would not completely clean-out the plumbing systems. In late January, Ohio State University student Krista Bryson published a video describing the flushing recommendations of the USA team during the incident.
In Boston, Whelton’s team reported 4-MCHM levels within homes they visited ranged from approximately 60 ppb to more than 400 ppb. They found that flushing reduced 4-MCHM levels by 80% to 100% in two homes tested, while the 4-MCHM level was relatively unchanged in a third home. Whelton said it is unclear why flushing did not reduce 4-MCHM levels on the third home. He proposed that 4-MCHM levels within the utility’s nearby main lines could still have been elevated. “We flushed all of the unflushed homes we entered personally” Whelton stated. “We know for a fact that flushing actions were similar across the unflushed homes we tested.” The USA team visited homes in Kanawha and Putnam counties. some homes that were located at the end of cul-de-sac’s.
Their research also suggested CRUDE MCHM’s main ingredient, 4-MCHM, permeated crosslinked polyethylene pipe in laboratory testing. For comparison purposes, Whelton’s team compared 4-MCHM interaction with plastic pipe to that of toluene and cyclohexane, two chemicals not present in the tap water. “We know from other studies as well as those we recently conducted that toluene and cyclohexane can rapidly permeate plastic pipe whereas 4-MCHM permeation was not rapid, but limited 4-MCHM permeation likely occurred.” This finding is important because tap water was stagnated during the ban on water use. Some residents refused to flush their plumbing systems for more than 30 days because of their own water safety concerns even after being asked by the water company to do so.
Whelton’s team previously reported results of their in-home resident survey in March 2014 at a Seminar at the University of New Orleans. In April Dr. Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department presented some of the USA team’s new health impact data during a National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) training event. Gupta and Whelton’s team estimated nearly 100,000 people experienced negative health impacts caused by the incident, with a majority presenting to physicians not located at hospitals, and some persons did not seek medical care at all.
“Our plastic pipe results are promising considering the 4 to 10 day mandatory tap water stagnation period ordered by the utility,” Whelton said. “More research needs to be conducted to provide a more definitive picture. Funding by the US National Science Foundation and support from Environmental Engineering Program Officer Dr. Bill Cooper has been instrumental in our ability to release these results today. We are continuing to study CRUDE MCHM’s interaction with other plumbing system components, as various types of materials are used in plumbing systems, not just crosslinked polyethylene pipe.”
Participating in the research were Kevin White, chair of civil engineering; environmental engineering graduate students Keven Kelley and Jeff Gill; environmental toxicology graduate students Matt Connell, LaKia McMillan and Caroline Novy; civil engineering undergraduate student Fredrick Avera; and chemical engineering undergraduate student Mahmoud Alkhaout. A copy of the University of South Alabama press release can be found here: USA Research Team Releases Findings
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Plumbing Systems, Water Main Rehab Technologies, and the Elk River Chemical Spill in West Virginia: Learn about these Topics in Boston at AWWA ACE!

If you are headed to Boston to attend the AWWA conference June 8-12 or simply to make new contacts, don’t miss out on the following opportunities.
JAWWA June 2014 ArticleRead the June 2014 article authored by Dr. Michael McGuire and several other West Virginia Testing Assistance Project (WVTAP) representatives in this month’s Journal AWWA. This article describes the recent Elk River chemical spill that contaminated the water distribution system and plumbing systems serving 300,000 people.
SUNDAY: Rehabilitation Workshop - Education, Utility Lessons Learned, and Tech Demos!
Rehab Workshop Agenda ACE2014Are you a consultant? Utility representative? Register NOW for the Sunday Water Main Rehabilitation workshop. This full-day event is an upgraded version of our WEFTEC 2013 workshop. AWWA workshop attendees will learn the science and engineering behind pipe coatings, CIPP, plastic pipes, as well as hear from experienced utility representatives in the morning. In the afternoon session, participants will get up close to each of the technologies and be able to see first-hand the technologies in action. This approach provides participants a unique opportunity to ask critical questions of the technologies to the technology representatives themselves! We have a wide array of super instructors. Signup for the workshop.
MONDAY: Plastic Plumbing Pipe, Green Buildings, West Va. Tap Water Plumbing Results
EDC MON10 Pres AgendaIf you are building or renovating a home, selecting or repairing water service lines, or buried water piping, you should stop in at 2:00 PM at Room 254B. Our team will describe testing results from our PEX plumbing system laboratory and field investigations. This presentation may also include some data regarding our NSF funded West Virginia drinking water plumbing system research following the Elk River chemical spill.
TUESDAY: Polypropylene and PEX Plastic Plumbing Pipe in Buildings
DS TUE38 Pres AgendaIf you weren’t able to make it to Monday’s presentation, that’s okay. You missed out on some good information. BUT, there’s still time…. At 1:30 PM Tuesday, stop in to Room 207. TheWheltonGroup presents at 2:00 PM. Has anyone you know been in a hospital or shopped at a grocery store? or lived in a building? Are you interested about green building practices? If you answered yes to any of this questions, you probably want to learn about a relatively new plastic pipe that is increasingly entering US plumbing systems. It is called polypropylene (PP). PP pipe has been installed in several hospitals, grocery stores, and is increasingly being selected for residential plumbing systems. Comparisons will be drawn between PEX piping and results will ALSO include field drinking water data.
IMPORTANT~!!!
Several of our team’s environmental engineering as well as science graduate students will be attending the AWWA conference and are seeking employment.If you know of an organization that wants highly trained, motivated, and capable junior engineers and scientists, please send Dr. Whelton an email at ajwhelton@southalabama.edu. Follow us on Twitter @TheWheltonGroup.

 

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West Virginia Water Crisis: 2014 Mountain State Public Health Symposium Presentation Posted

MTN SympsoiumOn May 9, 2014 Dr. Rahul Gupta delivered a presentation during the Mountain State Public Health Symposium about the West Virginia Water Crisis. The event was held in South Charleston, WV was intended to bring nursing professionals from hospitals, long-term care, facilities, and ambulatory surgery centers together. Some of the West Virginia drinking water contamination incident public health impact data that he and University of South Alabama Professors Andrew Whelton, Rajarshi Dey and graduate student LaKia McMillan have analyzed were reported.  New survey results not previously reported by  Kanawha-Charleston Health Department were also reported. The May 9 Mountain State Public Health Symposium presentation PDF file can be downloaded here: Gupta Mtn State Symp Presentation File. Partial funding for this work was provided by the US National Science Foundation Engineering RAPID Program award #1424627. Both Dr. Gupta (@kchdmd) and Dr. Whelton (@TheWheltonGroup) can be followed on Twitter. Questions about this file and material should be directed to Drs. Rahul Gupta and Andrew J. Whelton.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Information described in the presentation is not part of the ongoing WVTAP project funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. For information about the WVTAP project please visit the WVTAP website here.

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April 2014 Crude Oil Spill in Virginia Highlights the Need for Backup Drinking Water Sources

The April 30, 2014 train derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia has resulted in crude oil spilling into the James River. This action has resulted in the City of Richmond water treatment facility considering a switch to an alternate water source. The Richmond water treatment facility provides potable water to 197,000 people as well as businesses and industries in Central Virginia. The facility director has indicated that the alternate water source is called “Kanawha Canal system at Tuckahoe Creek.”
Persons interested in gaining a better understanding the chemical composition and fate of crude oil in water, water treatment facilities, should download this report here: Whelton Crude Oil Water Supply Report. This report was submitted as expert witness testimony during the Mobile County Circuit Court trial MAWSS vs. Plains Pipeline All American, LLC trial in December 2014.
Impact of a Crude Oil Spill in the Big Creek Lake Watershed on the
Mobile Area Water and Sewer System’s Ability to Provide Potable
and Industrial Water to Its Customers
Crude Oil Fate Image

Crude oil fate pathways when spilled into a water source

During Dr. Whelton’s testimony during the trial, he indicated MAWSS, which serves 300,000 people had -no- backup potable water supply. The court and Plains Southcap, LLC pipeline installation company stated that the Mobile River used for industrial water by MAWSS (heavily contaminated with industrial pollution) would be MAWSS’s the alternate drinking water source in an emergency. MAWSS however claimed that their Mobile River system is not considered fit for drinking water supply and they did not have the capacity to transport enough water or treat that industrial polluted water: Would oil spill equal Mobile evacuation? Judge, Plains Southcap challenge MAWSS expert’s analysis, December 19, 2013, Press-Register
In January 2014, Dr. Whelton’s University research team engaged nonprofit organizations and residents in Charleston, West Virginia to help them investigate and recover from the Elk River Crude MCHM chemical spill. A Do Not Use order issued for 300,000 customers because of extensive water treatment plant, distribution system, and plumbing system contamination: Disaster scenario realized: USA professor, grad students help victims of WVA chemical spill, January 22, 2014, Press-Register
Questions about these topics or any related reports should be directed to Dr. Andrew Whelton at ajwhelton@gmail.com.
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West Virginia Drinking Water Incident Public Health Impact Presentation Posted

 

GuptaNACCHOPres

On April 15, 2014, Dr. Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH delivered a presentation to the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) by way of an online webinar. Dr. Gupta discussed described the scientific issues surrounding the West Virginia drinking water contamination incident. Specifically, Dr. Gupta highlighted some of the public health impact data that he and University of South Alabama Professors Andrew Whelton, Rajarshi Dey and graduate student LaKia McMillan have analyzed and reported.  
The West Virginia-USA team estimated 100,000 people likely experienced negative health impacts caused by contact with contaminated drinking water. These conclusions were based on their review of syndromic surveillance records and household survey results.
The April 2014 NACCHO presentation PDF file can be downloaded here: Gupta NACCHO Presentation File. Some of the background data slides can be found in a March 2014 presentation delivered by Dr. Whelton at the University of New Orleans here. Partial funding for this work was provided by the US National Science Foundation Engineering RAPID Program award #1424627.
Both Dr. Gupta (@kchdmd) and Dr. Whelton (@TheWheltonGroup) can be followed on Twitter. 
Questions about this file and material should be directed to Drs. Rahul Gupta and Andrew J. Whelton.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Information described in the presentation is not part of the ongoing WVTAP project funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. For information about the WVTAP project please visit the WVTAP website here.
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West Virginia Drinking Water Incident Seminar File Posted: Lessons Learned

Click on the weblink within the text to download the entire presentation file.

Click on the weblink within the text to download the entire presentation file.

On March 12, 2014 Dr. Andrew J. Whelton and graduate student LaKia McMillan traveled to the University of New Orleans to deliver a seminar about the January 2014 West Virginia drinking water contamination incident. The 45 minute seminar was entitled Lessons Learned from the Largest Drinking Water Chemical Contamination Incident in US History: The 2014 Elk River Chemical Spill, West Virginia. 
Dr. Whelton’s University engineering and science team visited the affected area January 16-22, 2014. Some results of their actions were described during the seminar.
On January 9, 2014 the drinking water for 300,000 people living in 9 counties near the West Virginia state capitol became contaminated by industrial chemicals. Approximately 10,000 gallons of an industrial liquid product called Crude MCHM that also was mixed with a product called PPH was spilled into the Elk River. Chemicals within this mixture then entered the regional drinking water treatment facility and were distributed to 15% of the State of West Virginia’s population. Once detected, the 300,000 residents and businesses were ordered to immediately halt drinking water use for all purposes because of public health water safety / chemical exposure concerns.
This Do Not Use order remained in place for several days, affecting hospitals, businesses, and residences. The order was followed by direction that building and business owners as well as residents should flush the chemically contaminated water from their plumbing systems. Because of resident personal concerns about chemical exposures, several residents whom the University team interviewed did not flush their plumbing systems even after being directed by officials to do so. The incident was, and remains unprecedented.
The University team consisted of Dr. Whelton, Ms. McMillan along with Civil Engineering Professor Kevin White and graduate students Matt Connell, Keven Kelley, and Jeff Gill. The seminar presentation PDF file can be downloaded here: Whelton UNO WV Presentation. The file is 14 Megabites (MB) in size so downloading the file may be slow.
Dr. Whelton’s team has a twitter account and can be followed here: @TheWheltonGroup. The residents who were interviewed by the University team were identified by contacting West Virginia nonprofit organizations and through personal contacts of Dr. Whelton. On January 16, while Dr. Whelton’s team drove 15 hours to Charleston, West Virginia more than 80 homeowners asked for assistance. Results presented in the March 12 seminar describe a survey of 16 different homes.

Chemical tap water testing results obtained during their January visit are undergoing analysis and will be released in the coming weeks. As of today, Dr. Whelton’s team continues to receive questions by homeowners and nonprofit organizations about the lingering drinking water odors, the safety of the tap water in residences and schools, impact of the contaminated water on plumbing systems, and actions residents can take to protect themselves. Dr. Whelton participated in two town hall meetings in February 2014 to help answer questions from residents and businesses who were affected.

Questions about this file and material should be directed to Dr. Andrew J. Whelton at ajwhelton@southalabama.edu.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Information described in the presentation is not part of the ongoing WVTAP project funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. The results presented at the University of New Orleans represent those obtained by the authors. Dr. Whelton became involved in the WVTAP project weeks after this testing was conducted. For information about the WVTAP project please visit the WVTAP website here.
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