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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Water Crisis Not Over After West Virginia Chemical Spill

Freedom Industries is pictured on the banks of the Elk River, January 10, 2014, in Charleston, West Virginia. West Virginia American Water determined 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, which spilled thousands of gallons of a coal-washing chemical into the Elk River, is pictured on January 10, 2014, in Charleston, West Virginia. (Tom Hindman/Getty Images)

It’s been called one of the most serious episodes of drinking water contamination in U.S. history. Four months after thousands of gallons of the coal-washing chemical MCHM spilled from an unregulated above-ground storage tank into the Elk River, many people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, are still using bottled water.

Water bans after the Jan. 9 spill lasted as long as nine days in some Charleston communities. But residents continue to report that the water smells like licorice and it has sent people to the emergency room. A recent article in The New Yorker that profiled the power of the coal industry in West Virginia called the spill an accident with no clear ending, with the most basic question — “Is the water safe?” — unanswered.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, who runs the Kanawha-Charleston and Putnam County health departments in Charleston, West Virginia, speaks with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti about the ongoing water crisis.

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Guest

  • Rahul Gupta, MD, runs the Kanawha-Charleston and Putnam County health departments in Charleston, West Virginia. He also teaches at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy.

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