Breaking Local News
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller released a statement Monday following a hearing at the Kanawha County Courthouse. The US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held the hearing, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, and U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall also attended. Sen. Rockefeller said in the statement that “Good businesses cannot thrive or even survive if they must shoulder the costs when bad actors get away with cutting corners. It’s time to acknowledge that industry is not looking out for you. Too many in industry are driven solely by maximized profits, and this cynical strategy has caused tremendous harm to West Virginians’ well-being and has shaken their sense of our state’s future.” Since the spill, Rockefeller asked the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to open an investigation into the root cause of the spill, and asked the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency to work on a joint study into the long-term health risks.
Some post office cuts won't be happening after all. The U.S. Postal Service has reversed its decision to reduce window hours at two post offices in Beckley and Bluefield. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall says the Postal Service reduced the window hours at the East Beckley Post Office in mid-January. The agency also planned to reduce the window hours at the Bluefield Federal Street Post Office beginning last week. Rahall says he contacted Postal Service officials after constituents informed him about the cuts. He says he learned that the Postal Service didn't follow its full analysis and approval process. Rahall says the Beckley post office's window hours will return to their previous schedule Feb. 17. The Bluefield post office's window hours won't be reduced.
At Monday's hearing on the Freedom Industries chemical spill at the Kanawha County Courthouse, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito introduced new legislation aimed at preventing any future water emergencies. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing included testimony by the President of West Virginia American Water, and also the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Congresswoman Capito's legislation would require oversight and inspection of chemical storage facilities and above ground storage tanks. If you missed the hearing you can still add your comments. The public comment period remains open for 30 days for anyone who wants to go on the record with thoughts.
A young girl on a school bus saw the body of 35-year old Tonya Atkinson Monday, and a short time later Dunbar Police made an arrest for Atkinson's murder. Bobby Kanode Jr. was taken into custody shortly after the body was found in the Kanawha River, and he's been charged with murder and is being held without bond. The two were reportedly in a relationship, and got into a fight late last week. Kanode's preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 19.
Protesters over the weekend took their frustrations to West Virginia American Water. More than a hundred and fifty people held a protest at the capitol, then marched through Charleston and then to the offices of West Virginia Amercian Water. Demonstrators were from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, the NAACP, and local churches, among others. The event was billed as “My Clean H2O Matters!” and the protestors asked that West Virginia American Water Company be held responsible for costs associated with the water emergency. The company released a statement saying, "Although West Virginia American Water is not responsible for the spill, we do have a process in place to receive information from customers who want to inform us of losses resulting from Freedom Industries' chemical spill." And the information collection process continues.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced a grant totaling $3.1 million to help West Virginia turn around some of its lowest-achieving schools. The so-called school improvement grants are aimed at assisting school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds, as well as a commitment to raise student achievement. Duncan said the funding represents a "tremendous opportunity" for persistently struggling schools to provide a better education for their students. West Virginia is among six states and the District of Columbia that are receiving grants. The grants total $38 million.
Appalachian Power said small business owners are the target of a scam seeking to extort cash. The power company said reports of the scam are coming from its West Virginia customers, but it said its customers in Virginia and Tennessee are also likely to be targeted. Customers are getting calls from someone who says represents the company and claims that check or credit card payments are no longer being accepted. Appalachian Power says that is not the case. The caller told customers that their payments have been returned, they owe $1,000 and that it must be paid immediately with a prepaid credit card. Appalachian Power says it never demands payment that way.
Memorial services have been scheduled for a Clendenin volunteer firefighter who died in an accident Saturday night. Nathan Smith was reportedly on his way home when the accident happened. He was a volunteer firefighter in Clendenin, and had also worked at the Chesapeake Police Department, the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Service, and the Air National Guard. Visitation is coming up tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. His funeral will be at the same location Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.
West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre spoke Thursday afternoon before the state HouseHealth and Resources Committee and said water credits to residents and businesses will start today. Homes can be credited for 1000 gallons of water and commerical users will get 2000 gallon credits, amounting to about ten and twenty dollars. Despite the licorice smell, tests came back Thursday showing that there was no MCHM in the water, and the odor is likely to phase itself out in another few days.
The United Way of Central West Virginia says it's still distributing emergency funds. The fund has grown with donations and has reached six figures, and that money is going to qualifying West Virginians in need. WCHS TV reports the partner agency locations will continue to accept applications for assistance at least until Feb. 21 or until the fund is extinguished. Workers may qualify for up to $200 depending on work hours and lost wages. To see if you qualify just go to the United Way website, which is www.unitedwaycwv.org.