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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.
During 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.
External parties should provide feedback on the protocol (not just people in the Emergency Operations Center or affiliated government agencies).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
On 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.
Funding 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
New 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.
The 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
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.
Read 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!
Are 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
If 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
If 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.
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 email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter @TheWheltonGroup.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.