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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Seminar About the West Virginia Drinking Water Contamination Incident March 12; New Orleans, LA

On March 12, 2014 Dr. Whelton will deliver a seminar at the University of New Orleans by request of the Advanced Material Research Institute. A copy of the full abstract can be found here: UNO Seminar March 2014.

Whelton UNO Seminar

 

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NSF Recognizes Critical Need in West Virginia: Our Team Now Seeks Donations for In-Home Drinking Water Sampling

Last week the US National Science Foundation, the NSF, awarded three RAPID research grants to Alabama, West Virginia, and Virginia researchers, including ourselves. Studies conducted using these grants will provide answers to the scientific questions plaguing West Virginia in the wake of the drinking water contamination incident. Each grant focuses on a different aspect of the incident:

Because the NSF funding we just received does not include a field drinking water sampling component (limited funds), we established a way for anyone to donate (501c-3, tax deductible) so that we can continue to help West Virginians.

Consider donating here: http://www.microryza.com/wvwatercrisis, $5, $100, or more

Project contextYour donation will help our engineering and science team to travel back to West Virginia and conduct additional in-home drinking water sampling. No State or Federal organization has conducted in-home drinking water testing despite declaring the water safe inside affected homes.

We will post all updates about our trip on the website so that you can how your donation is helping those affected. Thank you for considering to help us help those affected. A summary of our past actions in West Virginia can be found here.

Sincerely, Andy Whelton

 

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Absence of Drinking Water Safety Data Inside West Virginia Homes: Time to Act

Dear West Virginia:

Untitled

A public donation site has been setup to help those affected by the West Virginia drinking water contamination incident. Any donation would be used to conduct drinking water sampling –inside– affected homes and data would be provided to the public. Please see the site link below. Any donation ($1 or more) is appreciated. – Sincerely, Andy Whelton, Ph.D.

There continues to be a complete lack of interest by any official to conduct inside the house drinking water testing, despite the tap water being deemed safe to drink from fire hydrant and government buildings testing. Still today, water is not safe for pregnant women and children under 3 years old. Some people who have contacted me have family members who were admitted to the hospital caused by inhalation exposures. Others have planned water births and now do not know what to do. As a parent, husband, and son, I cannot fathom the stress that must be going through these individuals lives because of the incident. I am sincerely sorry that the residents of West Virginia were affected by this incident. More information is needed to help those affected.

Over the past two weeks I have been speaking with government agencies and nonprofit organizations in an effort to find funding to support continued in-home drinking water testing. As you know, many people still refuse to drink the tap water, and some outright refuse to use the water for any purpose. No organization has provided us funding (or to my knowledge, any other organization) to conduct the necessary in-home testing. It seems the people who are being affected and their family and friends are primarily the only people who seem to be concerned anymore. 

Having been in the Charleston area last week and seen firsthand the impact this event had on people of all socioeconomic levels, bathed in the water myself (cold only), and failure of responders to provide –inside the home– drinking water testing, we have setup a public donation site.

Click here to donate: Help Those Still Affected by the West Virginia Drinking Water Crisis

Donations are Tax Deductible 501c-3 through Microryza to the Univ. South Alabama

This site enables anyone to donate any amount of money to help us return to West Virginia and continue drinking water sampling for the public. All funding will go directly towards paying the students, supplies, and travel costs. A detailed budget is supplied. I will work for free. People outside West Virginia can use this site as a mechanism to help provide West Virginian’s the drinking water testing data they are demanding, but not receiving. Any funds raised in excess of the target level will be used to expand drinking water testing for affected homes.

CIMG0547

Graduate student Lakia McMillan is collecting a drinking water sample  in Elk View, West Virginia January 17, 2014. After sampling, the team helped the homeowner flush her plumbing system.

Results of this project can also be used by officials to respond to any future incident and try to prevent something like what occurred in West Virginia from ever happening again.

In closing, results of our engineering and science team’s drinking water testing conducted last week –inside houses– will be posted soon. While onsite, we visited several houses, helped homeowners flush, and collected drinking water samples. This effort was completely unfunded (no agenda). Our only purpose was to help those affected and provide them the drinking water testing data they are demanding, but are not receiving.

CIMG0507

Graduate students Jeff Gill and Matt Connell conduct drinking water sampling in Cross Lanes, West Virginia January 18, 2014.

Thank you in advance for reading this message.

Sincerely, Andy Whelton, Ph.D.

Environmental Engineering Professor, University of South Alabama

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Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Your Questions Answered: Flushing Recommendations, Water and Water Systems Safety, and Health Concerns

Dear Residents Affected by the Water Crisis,

My research team has received over 20 e-mail messages and telephone calls from you in the last week regarding the West Virginia Water Crisis. At the end of this post, you can read some of those messages, which demonstrate the great need, gratitude, and sadly, fear that many of you are experiencing. Because the number of these messages exceeds our ability to respond quickly, we have compiled a list of the 10 most commonly asked questions below. Please contact us if you have other questions not answered below. Ms. Krista Bryson, a Ph.D. student at Ohio State University also contributed to this information. Ms. Bryson worked with us to put together a “how to flush your plumbing system” video and the below information.

This flood of questions from residents brings to light the importance of having credible, trustworthy, and transparent scientists and engineers involved in a disaster response of this magnitude. Please feel free to ask any other questions and check back at our website for updates on our drinking water testing results conducted on water found inside the homes of those in affected areas. We recognize there is still a great need for answers in West Virginia and will do everything in our power to come back to West Virginia in about one month to conduct further testing.

Sincerely,

Andy Whelton, Ph.D. (University of South Alabama)

[For maximum distribution, this information was posted at the West Virginia Water Crisis blog]

The 10 Most Commonly Asked Questions from Residents Affected by the West Virginia Drinking Water Crisis Answered

1. Should I flush my plumbing system if I have not yet done so?  I have heard there are individuals advising residents not to flush their plumbing systems at all.

My advice, as an environmental engineer with experience designing and troubleshooting water systems and plumbing materials, is to flush your plumbing system immediately. However, do not use the exact flushing guidance endorsed by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. Instead, use the modified guidance we issued in response to chemical exposure reports of those who followed the West Virginia Bureau of Health guidance.

 Flushing is critical to your plumbing system because the longer you allow the contaminated water to sit stagnant, the more problems your building may experience. Chemicals may break down and transform into more or less toxic compounds, pipes could be damaged by water contact, and plumbing materials could be permeated by those chemicals and other compounds. Disease causing organisms can also begin to grow and take up residence in your pipes. There are many more potential consequences. Unfortunately, there is little information available to describe the consequences of allowing your plumbing system to sit idle with the specific contaminated drinking water that affected your community.

2. How should I flush my plumbing system?

Step 1. Shut-off your hot water heater. Let that water cool down. Chemicals will evaporate faster into your building from hot water than from cold water.

Step 2. Open all exterior windows and doors to ventilate your building, BEFORE you start flushing. Find your floor fans and position them so that any air near the faucets, bathrooms, etc. can be pushed outside. If you have limited fans, try to flush one faucet at a time. You want to get the chemical odor out of your house when you flush. If one of your drains is clogged or drains slowly, do not stand inside that room while flushing. Check back frequently so that you do not let the water overflow.

Step 3. Flush your hot water faucets using the West Virginia Bureau of Health endorsed guidance. Remember, you should have shut off your hot water heater.

Step 4. Flush your cold water faucets using the West Virginia Bureau of Health endorsed guidance.

You will note that Steps 3 and 4 are similar to the guidelines endorsed by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. Steps 1 and 2 were not and have not been mentioned by the Bureau of Health to date. However, Steps 1 and 2 are important to limit chemicals from accumulating in your house during flushing.

You may have rooms that do not have working overhead fans, doors, or windows. For those rooms you want to make certain when the faucets are flushed that you have set up floor or nearby window fans to remove the contaminated air. Flush the water and flush-out that air.

If you live in a building that does not allow you access to your hot water heater, contact the building owner. They would be responsible for the hot water heater and could tell you when they last flushed it. If you still have questions contact a representative of the West Virginia Bureau of Health.

3. If my neighbors don’t flush at all or only flush once, will the contaminated water will ever get out of the water supply?

This question is complex. Flushing once is the West Virginia Bureau of Health’s recommendation. At some point, flushing should remove the chemicals that remain inside the water supply system. However, in 1980, a drinking water contamination incident required 9 months of flushing to remove the chemical from water pipes buried below the ground. It is possible that the chemicals inside Charleston West Virginia’s drinking water system will require 9 months to flush out. The key is for researchers to determine where the chemical remains, if it degraded, how it interacted with the plumbing systems, and how much remains at drinking water taps inside houses. We are not aware of any data that predicts exactly how long it will take to remove the chemicals from the affected drinking water system.

4. How many residents haven’t flushed their plumbing systems?

Today, I’m not certain. On Monday, January 20 the West Virginia Governor’s office did not know either. Of the people we interviewed in the affected area (January 17-22), 7 out of 10 had not flushed their plumbing system. Other residents told us they “partially” flushed and hoped to get around to finishing their flush soon. All people we spoke with lived in all different areas of Charleston and had varying income levels. Today, I found out that one resident has not flushed his plumbing system at all, leaving the contaminated water stagnant in their plumbing for 17 days.

To determine how many buildings still contain contaminated water inside their plumbing systems, West Virginia officials could mobilize the National Guard or staff from another government agency to go door-to-door and determine who has and has not flushed their plumbing system. Our interviews and the emails we continue to receive indicate that there are still individuals who have not flushed, and have no intention of flushing. Because the public health and plumbing system integrity consequences of not flushing are simply unknown, this is a concern for everyone.

5. Who is responsible for making sure everyone has flushed their systems? What should they be doing to ensure our safety?

It is the responsibility of the West Virginia Bureau of Health to ensure that the plumbing systems and the water inside resident’s homes are safe. We know this because when you make building plumbing system modifications, you must obtain a permit from them and their inspectors check to make certain everything is up to code.

So far, there has been little to no drinking water testing inside homeowner residences by the West Virginia Bureau of Health. Most of the drinking water testing has been carried out at fire hydrants (that convey cold water and empty into well-ventilated areas, much different from the flushing procedures they recommended for residents) and government buildings. Understanding chemical levels in fire hydrants is certainly important because that water would eventually make its way into resident homes. But, simply testing fire hydrants assumes that drinking water quality in plumbing systems and hydrants is the same. That assumption has not been proven.

No one from the West Virginia Bureau of Health is monitoring chemical levels inside the resident’s homes from what we gathered from our interviews, continued discussions with government officials, and nonprofits who are still distributing bottled water.

My personal discussions with a few federal officials tangentially involved in the handling of the water crisis revealed that the interaction between the chemicals and the plumbing system had not been considered as of Wednesday, January 22. Because I told a few colleagues in the federal government to consider the plumbing system – chemical interaction issue and they agreed, it is now at least being discussed. If officials involved in this response do not have the expertise needed, they should engage folks like us who do.

Finally, there has been no timetable issued for how long is needed to remove the chemicals from the drinking water supply or how much flushing water per month is needed. From what I understand, that is because officials have not seriously investigated the issue of plumbing system contamination. I would have expected that by now this type of testing would be underway.

In response to resident questions about flushing, our research team has begun unfunded experiments in our laboratory to address these issues.

6. Would a new home filtration unit remove this chemical?

 If the building plumbing system is contaminated, the installation of a home filtration system may not have much value in removing the 4-MCHM chemical or other chemicals within water before it entered the building. Parts or all of the existing plumbing system could require decontamination or replacement if chemical binding or permeation with the plumbing system materials is significant. Decontamination actions could simply include clean tap water flushing or could potentially be more complex. There is simply not enough public information available.

If the building plumbing system turned out not to be contaminated, but the incoming tap water was contaminated, some treatment devices, but not all, would be effective at removing the chemicals. These devices however would include long-term operation and maintenance costs. As a consumer, be aware that there are equipment vendors approaching the government and homeowners, selling water treatment devices in the wake of this event. It is your responsibility and in your best interest as a consumer to protect yourself by investigating any claims made by these vendors about their equipment’s ability to safeguard your water.

7. Despite the drinking water being declared safe to drink except for pregnant women and children under 3 years old, is it safe to cook with, drink, or bathe with?

I am not certain how to answer because critical drinking water quality data has not been published and there are many variables involved when it comes to the different ways people expose themselves and the ways different people react to the same chemicals. If officials do not have the scientific data to justify the “safe” declaration under the aforementioned conditions then they need to come out and declare this. Affected residents want to make the best decisions to protect their family. They want data and transparency.

8. Is it safe to do laundry or bathe with water from the affected areas? What if the person is pregnant?

To my knowledge, no data exists that describes whether or not the chemicals within the contaminated water bind to clothing or if those chemicals could then be released onto skin when clothes are worn.

The bathing issue raises several possible exposure routes including inhaling vapors, absorbing chemicals through the skin, and ingestion (accidental, as may happen with children in the bath). To my knowledge, no testing has been conducted inside affected homes.

For pregnant women and children under 3 years old, I recommend those persons follow the advice of the Centers for Disease (CDC) control for their contact with the water.

9. If children or adults are exposed to the water could they get cancer?

I defer to the public health community to provide advice here. Disease is a complex issue, and you should contact qualified medical professionals about these types of questions. The West Virginia Bureau of Health consists of credentialed medical professionals. As an Environmental Engineer I can describe chemical fate, breakdown, reactions with other compounds in the water, plumbing system materials, and air exposure levels, among other topics. I am not qualified to advise you on whether exposure to this chemical may cause cancer.

Clearly, it is difficult to find an answer to this question from anyone because government officials definition of “safe” and the medical community’s response to visits prompted by exposure to the contaminated water are not as transparent as they should be. This is partially because there is little known information on the health effects of exposure to this chemical, and simply the other chemicals that may be in the drinking water.

10. Will chemical levels in my home plumbing with plastic differ from my neighbors who have copper pipes?

We simply do not know because there is no data to answer this question. Officials have neglected to test drinking water within private homes wherein the residents would most likely be exposed to chemicals during water use. Instead, officials have mainly relied on fire hydrants and government buildings, not typically where residents take baths/showers, cook dinner, and brush their teeth, etc.

In my opinion, residents who live in buildings that have metal drinking water pipes will have very different experiences than residents who live in buildings that contain plastic drinking water pipes. During our visit (January 17-22) we inspected many indoor plumbing systems. Some were fully copper, cPVC plastic, PEX plastic, while others were a mixture of copper, iron, cPVC plastic, PEX plastic, and PB plastic materials. Based on our ongoing testing, we believe that plastics in the Charleston area have the potential to be permeated by some of the chemicals reported. The rate of permeation in Charleston residences however may be minimal for some plastics and greater for others. Metal plumbing systems typically become corroded and chemicals could interact with those surfaces. Lack of data pertaining to the contaminated water makes drawing any definitive conclusions difficult. If you are unsure about what type of pipes you have in your home, you can consult the paper one of our graduate students wrote regarding plastic pipes in houses across the US, here.

In response to the lack of information about plumbing systems, our research team has begun additional unfunded experiments in our laboratory to address these issues.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

For medical advice, please contact your family physician or another credentialed medical professional. I am a civil/environmental engineer who understands chemical fate, degradation, transport, water treatment, plumbing systems, and exposure routes. Medical professionals can best address questions regarding the consequences of chemical exposure and health. It is my impression the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health should operate in this capacity. However, I am not aware of any effort by that organization or State government to go door-to-door like our team did last week to address concerns raised by the affected residents.

SELECT MESSAGES FROM RESIDENTS

 =====================

January 24, 2014: Hello, my name is [XXXXX], I am involved in the water contamination in WV. I have not been using the water and am very concerned about bathing my children in the water. I am pregnant and want to make safe choices for my family, I am just not sure what is safe. In your professional opinion, would it be safe to do laundry and bathe in the water? we don’t intend to cook with it nor drink it. Thank you so much

January 24, 2014: Hello! I just saw your video about the water crisis in WV. It was on a friend’s facebook page. I live in Charleston, WV with my husband and 2 children. I was born and raised here and am so thankful for your work! Are you still here? We are, now, hearing that another chemical was leaked along with the original one. We are also being told that the ppm thought to be safe is not actually safe. I flushed when we were told, but am still not using the water for drinking, cooking, or bathing. I feel there should be access to free bottled water until the chemicals are 0 ppm. It is so confusing and frightening. Will my children get cancer one day from all this? We still just don’t know who to trust and what to do!! Your video made me feel that you really care and that you actually might be able to give us accurate information.

January 24, 2014: Dr. Whelton, I appreciate your presence here and would love to meet with you if you have time to see if there is any way I can assist you.  My interest is personal, not professional as I do not have (nor do I anticipate having) any clients involved …..

January 24, 2014: Good Morning Dr. Whelton, I have seen your video posted on youtube regarding the recent water crisis here in WV. In my opinion this is a tragic event that has the good people of WV paralyzed as we try to make the right decisions for our health and the health of our loved ones. I, personally have flushed my home twice, once by running the faucets as instructed by WVAW company…then as I thought more and more I decided to drain our hot water tank and flush out all of our pipes again. We still smell the licorice odor in our water. It may be a little better but, not much. I have talked to my neighbors some of which have not flushed at all and some who say they only flushed once and will not do any more. My question to you is if this continues and not everyone is flushing and/or continues to flush will this ever get out of our water supply? I would also like to ask your opinion on a entire home filtration system? (sand filter and such)..this will cost me quite a bit of money however, I DO NOT feel our water supply is safe for cooking or drinking as well as bathing my children in it. If you have the time to answer my questions I would be eternally grateful.  Also, if I get a filtration for the entire home will it catch this type of chemical? [XXXXX] contact me about this situation.

January 23, 2014: Good evening Dr. Whelton, Thank you for the efforts you and your team of volunteers are devoting to effects of the chemical spill here in Charleston. Neither the water company not the government are offering any information about how the contaminant chemicals react with the plumbing and other materials with which they came in contact. When we flushed our plumbing a week ago a faintly greenish blue crystalline substance came out of our tub faucet.We immediately called the water company and reported the substance. We were told the water company would send someone out in 1 to 4 hours to take a sample. No one showed.

Four days later we got a phone call from a water company representative who identified himself as a chemist. He could not tell, nor would he speculate, what the crystalline substance might be. He could not tell us whether it was toxic or an irritant. At one point he speculated that the chemical could have reacted with the copper in our plumbing, but he would not offer any ideas as to what chemical reactions could have occurred. When I told him we had a right to know what potential hazards are presented by reactions between the contaminants and materials in our house he suggested that we have testing performed at our own expense.

Setting aside the insensitive and cavalier nature of his suggestion I would be glad to send you a sample of the crystalline substance for analysis. Can you and your team give us any idea as to what possible chemical reaction products, if any, may have resulted from the contamination?

Any information you can provide would be most welcome. We can’t get answers from the water company or the government entities involved in the aftermath of the spill. Given the lack of answers to our questions we are not drinking or cooking with the tap water, and are limiting our contact with it in bathing. Please help us understand what potential harmful exposure, if any, we may be facing as a result of chemical retains between the contaminants and our plumbing.

If there is anything we can do to assist you in your efforts please let us know. Very truly yours

January 23, 2014: My name is [XXXXXX] and I live in Culloden, WV, the only area impacted in Cabell County by the chemical contamination of the Elk River. I have been in contact with [XXXXXXX] who advised us not to flush our system yet. I was listening to your interview today which was posted by one of my friends and you advise definitely to flush. We are sending samples to [XXXXXXX], of preflush, midflush and postflush samples. We were just waiting to gather all the new information about the PPH chemical that has now been made known to have leaked.

One of my concerns is the fact that during a normal flushing of fire hydrants, the water company advises us to flush the cold water until it runs clear and not use the hot water until the cold is clean. In this new instance, we are told to flush the hot water first by running the hot water for 15 mins. I have written and called WVAMW to find out what the difference is, but to date no one has contacted me and it has been over a week. Could you please advise which is the proper way to do this. My grandchildren come here every day after school (5 and 7 yrs of age) and I have a 15 month old grandson who also comes here, as well as my son and daughter-in-law who is pregnant. They also live in Culloden. My husband has had multiple operations for cancer and has to have another exploratory one, so we are indeed concerned.

If you could contact me with the information, it would be greatly appreciated.[XXXXXXX] If you would like to come to our home prior to our flushing and would like to take samples, that would be great. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for coming to West Virginia to do research and help us during this crisis.

January 22, 2014: Andrew, good work in West Virginia. Good article! Elk River was a massive spill vs Camp LeJeune was a drip , drip , drip for 30+ years. As a Camp LeJeune Marine to you,… any advocacy and publicity about Camp LeJeune would be appreciated. I’ve written to many officials, elected, DOD VA ect.. with little effect. They have left the Marines on their own to die. Speak for us when you can. They will listen to you. [XXXXX]

January 21, 2014: Hello, fist things first. Thank you for coming to West Virginia. I would like to know your thoughts on my situation. I helped a neighbor flush his home as soon as the flush order was given. I found the opposite in my interactions with people. The people I spoke with seemed more hopeful that the flush would bring everything back to normal. I on the other hand think until all tanks and soil are removed from spill site it is not “normal”.

Upon flushing a home that had just been given the notice to flush I noticed the persistent sweet smell of the chemical. I took the opportunity to flush the hot water tanks in the home at this time as well. Ran the water for some time in all sinks and outside spigot. The whole time smelling the tainted water.

I waited a couple of days and flushed my home the same as the previous home. I did however notice along with the buildup in the hot water tank a blueish tinted substance. This came out of both hot water tanks. It is now 1/21/2014 and when I turn my water on I still smell the chemical in my water. I am not using the water for anything but flushing toilets.

Since our government SUCKS SO BAD I have never even been able to find a water tanker for bulk fresh water in the City of Charleston. This despite calling city, county and Nation Guard. Our government is the number one cause of this problem. They are the ONLY ones with the authority to have entered this facility and demand tank inspections and inquire about chemicals stored at the site. And to state the obvious…chemicals stored a mile or two upstream from water source??

Do you know what other chemicals are mixed in with the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol? I have seen reports that 15 to 20 percent of the mixture are other types of chemicals. Lastly the 1 part per million. Do you believe that adding one drop of the chemical concoction to 13 gallons of water (I think this is roughly 1 to 1M) would really produce water that smelled so strongly of the chemicals? I just can not believe it would. Thanks Again!

January 20, 2014: Thank you so much for helping us! It is terrible here, the state government is not being honest with us and is dismissing the adverse effects and sicknesses people are experiencing after using the water. We all know the water is not safe and we do not know what to do. BLESS YOU FOR YOUR HELP.

January 20, 2014: What about those homes owned by people who spend the winters in the south? If they have no plans to return until spring how will their contaminated lines affect everyone else’s

January 20, 2014: Yes, there’s a bit of misleading info out there. To be honest, I’m not even convinced that the water supply is even safe today, fully flushed system or not. Thankfully, I live in Virginia. My rural water supply comes from a well, and I’m on a mountain. When you consider that over 300,000 rural folks can’t have wells and have to have water piped in due to crap groundwater (poisoned by corporations), and then that piped in water is poisoned by the same corporations, it all makes you wonder if the water will ever be truly safe. I feel for the people of West Virginia right now.

January 20, 2014: I am a Boone County, WV Resident caught in the middle of the chemical debachle. Would like to know what the Oily residue is that is present in the water system AFTER Flushing?? I have yet to hear any comments on this from anywhere.

January 20, 2014: We were out of town when the spill happened and did not come home until 3 days later. When we arrived home, my husband shut off the water at the water meter so that none on the bad water could enter our lines. We have NOT used any of the water until this evening. We were told that the only line that we need to flush out is the outside faucet. Is this correct or do we need to flush out all of them?

January 20, 2014: Thank you all for coming here to help!

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the Ground: Charleston West Virginia, Drinking Water Crisis

Updated January 28
Some of the information below was posted while we were in and traveling back from West Virginia. News stories were posted after arriving back in Alabama. We are fully underway characterizing the water samples we collected and should have the results publicly available in the coming weeks.
Our graduate students, Keven Kelley (Environmental Engineering) and Lakia McMillan (Environmental Toxicology) conduct drinking water sampling of an affected homeowner's drinking water.
Our graduate students, Keven Kelley (Environmental Engineering) and Lakia McMillan (Environmental Toxicology) conduct drinking water sampling of an affected homeowner’s drinking water.
Left to Right: Students Keven Kelley (Environmental Engineering), Matt Connell (Environmental Toxicology), and Jeff Gill (Environmental engineering) pack up after completing an investigation at a homeowner’s house. Students and faculty were separated into two squads/teams so that the number of houses tested could be maximized.
I apologize for the brevity of this posting because my time is consumed with drinking water sampling and analysis, catching up on sleep, and emails. Since arriving in Charleston, WV last week, our team of students and faculty have been in the field talking with affected homeowners, testing their drinking water, and flushing their houses. We are making a positive impact with the help of nonprofits and persons who are looking to help affected homeowners.
If you have a media request please contact ajwhelton@southalabama.edu. DO NOT call my office phone “251″ number.  I have my cell phone/email access. I am not posting my cellphone on this public forum. Email me.
Updates will be posted in the future. Check Twitter (@TheWheltonGroup) and LinkedIN for more up to date activity.
Thank you for visiting my research and education team page. Check back soon. If you have any funding to support this activity please contact me.  We need support. We are doing everything for free. All of the expenses are being incurred by myself, faculty and students. We are in need of Angel Funders or coalitions of individuals to keep this effort moving forward.
Sincerely,
Andy
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Posted in Instruction, Research, Team | 4 Comments

Angie’s List Interviews Our Plastic Pipe Team: “Does PEX Pipe Affect Drinking Water Quality? “

Angie’s List Beat Reporter Jason White recently interviewed our NSF funded plastic plumbing pipe project team. The Angie’s List news piece can be found on their website here. Jason was specifically interested in how drinking water quality could be altered by plastic pipe contact as plastics are increasingly being installed in premise plumbing systems across the globe. Angie’s List reaches more than 2 million households and helps individuals find service companies in their area, including construction and plumbing professionals. Results of our work will help drive industry towards safer and greener plumbing systems. If have questions about plumbing systems and materials, be sure to contact us.
WheltonStensonBryantAngiesListThis NSF funded plastic pipe project is being directed by Dr. Andrew Whelton and Dr. Alexandra Stenson at the University of South Alabama as well as MS. Rebecca Bryant, LEED AP Managing Principal of Watershed, LLC. A number of undergraduate and graduate students have participated in this project that include Rachael Cooley, Keven Kelley, Matt Tabor, Logan Dunn, Matt Connell, William Radcliffe, and Ray Buchanon. In addition to laboratory testing of numerous brands of plastic pipe, drinking water from several PEX plumbing systems in Colorado and Maryland are being analyzed and results are being prepared for public dissemination. Questions and interview requests about this project should be directed to Dr. Andrew Whelton at ajwhelton@southalabama.edu.
Image Shown from Left to right: Dr. Andrew Whelton, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering, William Radcliffe Civil Engineering student, and Rebecca Bryant, Managing Principal of Watershed, LLC. Not shown is Dr. Alexandra Stenson Associate Professor of Chemistry who is also a project co-director.
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Enter the Pipeline to Understand Water Infrastructure Plastics, Coatings, and Composites

Our 2013 Pipeline Repair and Replacement workshop was a success!

Polymer Repair and Replacement Workshop Siskel and Ebert Review Chicago 2013On October 5, 47 scientists, engineers, facility operators, and managers from around the globe converged on Chicago, IL USA to attend our polymers focused pipeline repair and replacement workshop. 59% of the attendees represented water utilities, 33% represented consulting firms, and the remaining attendees worked in R&D. This event was held as part of the 2013 WEFTEC Conference, home to the largest annual water quality exposition in the world.                                                                                                       The day began with workshop attendees learning about the unique properties of polymer materials and their failure mechanisms from Dr. Andrew Whelton. Equipped with this new knowledge the motivated scientists, engineers, facility operators, and planners then heard from industry experts who have supervised pipeline repair and replacement field installations on project specific and Statewide scales. The afternoon session enabled attendees to interact with technologists who demonstrated their epoxy, polyurea, PVC, HDPE, and CIPP technologies. Attendees also learned more about polymer processing, differences between polymer technologies, as well as mechanical and water quality issues during the afternoon training session through discussions with Dr. Whelton and graduate student Matt Tabor. Representatives from 22 US States, 3 Canadian Provinces, Mexico, and Europe participated in this event.

Polymer Repair and Replacement Workshop Chicago 2013

Planning is underway for the next water industry Polymers workshop. Subsequent events will be  upgraded based on attendee feedback and the water industry. Specific requests for this event, polymer educational training, or questions about polymer materials for water and energy infrastructure applications (i.e., coatings, plastics, composites) should be directed to Dr. Andrew Whelton at ajwhelton@southalabama.edu.

Polymer Repair and Replacement Workshop Chicago Skyline 2013A HUGE thank you is extended to the following people for their assistance in organizing and conducting this event:

  • Ms. Bridget Donaldson, Senior Research Scientist at Virginia Dept. Transportation (DOT)
  • Dr. John Matthews, Principle Research Scientist at Battelle
  • Mr. Matt Tabor, Environmental Engineering Graduate Research Assistant at USA Civil Engineering
  • Messrs. Larry Gillander, Bob Biagioni, John Laborde, Ms. Virginia Steverson at ePipe, Inc.
  • Messrs. Garry Bouvet, Andy Niblett at ISCO Industries, Inc.
  • Messrs. Dan Christensen, Mike Benvenuti, Andy Siedel at Underground Solutions, Inc.
  • Ms. Joanne Carroll, Mr. Phillip Hagebach at RS Technik
  • Messrs. Phil Banroni, Collis Parrish, Ryan Rozycki at IPR, Inc.
  • Messrs. Bob Klopfenstein, Ken Bennae at SpectraSheild, Inc.
This workshop was a volunteer effort and graciously endorsed by Charles Wilmut of Burgess and Niple, Inc., Jennifer Lachmayer and Amanda Savage of ARCADIS, Inc., Keith McCormack of HRC, Inc., and the rest of the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Collection Systems Committee and the 2013 WEFTEC Conference Planning Committee. US National Science Foundation CBET grant #1228615 provided some travel funding for Dr. Whelton to attend this event.
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Plastic Pipe Green Building Knowledge Now Reaches Six States: Alabama, Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Virginia

Plastic pipe green building article published in multiple States.

2013 Chesapeake AWWA Plastic Pipe article2013 South Carolina AWWA Plastic Pipe article

 

Congratulations to graduate student Matt Connell whose plastic pipe green building article was published in the Chesapeake Magazine and Breeze Magazine. These magazines are published by the American Water Works Association Chesapeake and Minnesota Sections. Matt’s article was co-authored by Prof. Alexandra Stenson and Prof. Andrew Whelton and previously published in the Pipeline Magazine, a production of the joint Alabama and Mississippi AWWA section.
Connell’s plastic pipe education article has now reached more than 3,000 water professionals in six States: Alabama, Delaware, Maryland, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Virginia. The members of these organizations include utility executive, management, operations, maintenance, engineering, laboratory, and customer service staff, along with public health officials, private sector scientists and engineers, and regulators. A special thanks is extended to the Editors and staff of the Chesapeake Magazine, Breeze Magazine, Pipeline Magazine, and Scott Kelman and his staff at Kelman & Associates. This article is part of a larger NSF funded project dedicated to better understanding chemical release from plastic drinking water pipe used in green buildings. 

Are you interested in learning more about plastics and coatings in underground construction or building plumbing applications?

ace13logo-small(1) Attend our PEX pipe technical presentation (4:00pm-4:20pm) Tuesday June 11, 2003 at AWWA ACE in Denver, CO about water piping in green buildings. Learn how pipe cleaning methods affect chemical leaching in a presentation by the NSF funded plastic pipe research team, Session: TUE30-Fresh Perspectives – Broadening the Boundaries of Water Treatment.
WEFTEC2013 logo(2) Attend the 2013 WEFTEC pipe replacement and repair workshop in Chicago, IL being taught by leading underground construction engineers, Professors, and industry technologists. Download the 1 page flyer here! Pipe Technol Workshop WEFTEC 2013_Info Flyer. This single day workshop will provide attendees a unique opportunity to learn the basics of polymer materials (plastics, coatings, etc.), hear from design, operations, and construction professionals about field experiences, and get up close to the technologies themselves to ask technologists questions they really need answered. Register here!
ace13logo-small(3) Check-out the brief 2013 AWWA ACE proceedings paper available in August 2013 that describes the only publicly available data for chemicals that were found in an installed PEX plumbing system in North America.
(4) Sign-up for periodic blog emails (on right side of this screen) as more updates about this project and others that pertain to polymers in infrastructure and the environment will become available in the coming years.
(5) Contact Prof. Whelton if you have questions about what materials you should install, how they age, or if you are seeking a tailored training workshop/seminar for your organization (1 hr to full-day sessions available). This training can be specifically tailored for water and energy utility staff, design engineers, architects, health and building professionals.
A key focus of The Whelton Group is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers knowledgeable about polymers as they relate to infrastructure, the environment, and public health.
Scroll our website for additional information. Contact Prof. Whelton if you have any questions at ajwhelton@southalabama.edu.
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Ever Drink Warm Water from a Plastic Water Bottle? New Research Finds that Heating Changes the Water’s Chemical Quality and Smell in 14 Days

According to a study out Wednesday, researchers confirmed that storing bottled water in hot environment can change its chemical quality and smell.
The study, published in the international Elsevier journal Science of the Total Environment, details work conducted by a team of preventive medicine and environmental engineering researchers at the United States  Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and University of South Alabama.
Bottled Water PalletFor a Masters of Science in Public Health graduate thesis project, graduate student US Army Major Michael Greifenstein determined how the chemical and odor quality of bottled water could change under temperatures experienced in Asia and the Middle East. The USUHS-USA team bottled the water in California and Afghanistan then stored those water bottles in a constant temperature chamber at temperatures up to 140 Fahrenheit (60 Celsius) for 4 months. These temperatures are common in hot climates where bottled water is stored in metal storage units and also stored in direct sunlight. The drinking water’s chemical quality as well as the intensity of drinking water odors were monitored.
Results of the USUHS-USA study showed that, to avoid unpleasant odor issues with the bottled water, the bottled water should be consumed within 14 days of packaging if they are stored at or above 98 Fahrenheit. If that bottled water was consumed after 14 days, the odor levels would exceed levels consumers are used to experiencing when living in the United States for drinking water from the faucets as well as bottled water.
No chemicals detected in the bottled water’s exceeded any health based drinking water limit after 4 months of storage. Other chemicals released from the plastic bottles were detected, but did not have health based regulated drinking water limits. A copy of the USUHS-USA study can accessed below.
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