Breaking Local News
In-home water testing is underway in two Kanawha County homes, and eight other homes across the are impacted by the January 9th Freedom Industries chemical spill. The testing looks at drinking water quality including the odor, then in the next phase health-risks will be assessed with medical professionals. Results of the tests aren't available yet, but the testing has begun in Kanawha and Cabell Counties.
Kanawha County Schools and members of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department looked into issues with bottled water Wednesday at three schools after there were complaints of a musty odor. The affected schools were Sharon Dawes Elementary, John Adams Middle School and Andrew Jackson Middle School. The musty smell may be confined to one particular brand of water, and tests have concluded the smell may be related to where the water was store prior to being shipped to the schools.
It may be a week before all the evidence of Tuesday's coal slurry spill is gone, although crews have been making progress with the cleanup. The slurry spilled in Fields Creek and DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman said the spill did impact the Kanawha River. While the cleanup is happening, state mine inspectors have shut down Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant near Winifrede. Huffman says the slurry contains heavy metals and other toxins, but not Crude MCHM, which is what spilled at the Freedom Industries Plant January 9th.
Alpha Natural Resources says federal prosecutors have closed a $210 million settlement stemming from a West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers in 2010. Under the settlement, Bristol, Va.-based Alpha would face no criminal charges in the Upper Big Branch explosion as long as it abided by the agreement's terms. The agreement required Alpha to compensate the miners' families, bankroll cutting-edge safety improvements and pay for years of violations by the mine's former owner, Massey Energy. Alpha executive vice president and general counsel Vaughn Groves says in a news release that the company has met or exceeded its obligations.
A legislative committee unanimously passed an amended bill Wednesday that proposes new regulations for above-ground storage tanks following last month's chemical spill. The latest version of the bill passed by the House health committee would require annual inspections for tanks like the one at Freedom Industries that leaked chemicals January 9th. The proposal also requires public water systems to have plans in place to protect their water from spills, and react quickly when they occur. The bill has two more House committee stops. The Senate already passed its own version.
The state Division of Highways has reopened a section of road that had been closed for weeks because of a rock fall The section of West Virginia Route 3 in the Raleigh County area of Sundial has been closed since late December because of fallen rocks, according to a news release from the DOH. It's slow going though, and speeds are reduced to 15 mph until the road can be repaved this spring. But the hillside has been stabilized, and the repairs have been made to ensure it's safe for motorists.
Funeral services are happening today for a Clendenin Firefighter who passed away last weekend in a car accident. Volunteer firefighter Lt. Nathan Smith's funeral will be held at 2 p.m. today at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Elkview. Smith was a 13-year veteran of the Clendenin Fire Department.
A coal slurry leak in Eastern Kanawha County is not expected to impact water supplies. The West Virgina Department of Environmental Protection has been investigating the slurry line rupture, which impacted Fields Creek, and that flows into the Kanawha River. West Virginia American Water released a statement saying its Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant would not be affected, and there are reports that the leak has since stopped. The Dept. of Environmental Protection says the Kanawha River was impacted, but exactly how much will take more fact-finding.
The West Virginia Senate has unanimously passed a bill to ensure vacancies on higher education commissions, councils and boards are filled in a timely manner. Some vacancies on these higher education boards have been left empty for as long as six months in the past, and right now there are 15 people serving on boards whose terms are expired. This Senate Bill 426 went into effect Monday and gives the governor 30 days to appoint a member to fill any vacancy. The bill also prevents members whose terms have expired from serving more than 60 days after their term ends.
A legislative audit of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture has uncovered poor record keeping, questionable reimbursements and other issues with a loan program that may have cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars during the tenure of former Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass, according to findings released this week. The audit was requested by Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick shortly after he took office in 2013. The report also said poor record keeping made it impossible to track the accuracy of a $4 million outstanding balance in the Rural Rehabilitation Loan program. In a news release Monday, Helmick said many of the audit recommendations have already been addressed and the department is working to ensure full departmental compliance with policies and guidelines.