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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Officials Deem West Virginia Water ‘Usable’

Freedom Industries on Barlow St on the banks of the Elk River is seen on January 10, 2014 in Charleston, West Virginia. West Virginia American Water determined Thursday MCHM chemical had 'overwhelmed' the plant's capacity to keep it out of the water from a spill at Freedom Industries in Charleston. An unknown amount of the hazardous chemical contaminated the public water system for potentially 300,000 people in West Virginia. (Tom Hindman/Getty Images)

Freedom Industries on Barlow St on the banks of the Elk River is seen on January 10, 2014 in Charleston, West Virginia. (Tom Hindman/Getty Images)

More than a month after thousands of gallons of chemicals used in coal processing leaked from Freedom Industries tanks into the Elk River, residents are still not confident the water is safe to drink.

The chemical leaked, MCHM has tainted the water of more than 300,000 people in the area and people are still reporting the water smells like licorice.

Yesterday, officials testified in a hearing before members of Congress and were asked repeatedly if the water was in fact safe for consumption.

“I’d still like to hear it’s safe and I think that’s what everyone wants — that one word,” Rep. Shelley Moore Capito said, addressing Dr. Letitia Tierney, commissioner of the state Bureau for Public Health.

“That’s in a way a difficult thing to say, because everybody has a different definition of safe,” Tierney replied. “Am I confident in the science? I’m as confident as I can be, given what we have. I believe the water, based on the standards we have, is usable for every purpose, and that includes drinking, bathing and cooking.”

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with NPR’s Brian Naylor, who is in Charleston, about West Virginia’s water dilemma.

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