The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 13, 2014

After 5 days, W.Va.'s water crisis nears its end

(Continued)

Water distribution centers have handed out bottled water and trucks with large tanks of water have filled up containers for people to take home. So far, only 10 people exposed to the contaminated water were admitted to the hospital, and none were in serious condition, Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling said.

The chemical, even in its most concentrated form, isn't deadly. However, people were told they shouldn't even wash their clothes in affected water, as the compound can cause symptoms ranging from skin irritation and rashes to vomiting and diarrhea.

Other than schools, day-care centers, hotels and many restaurants that will be closed Monday, the region was open for business, but foot traffic was slow. Stores and offices adjusted by providing bottled water and hand sanitizer. The governor said state government offices would be open Monday.

Lawmakers were to return to the Capitol on Monday after Friday's session was cut short because there wasn't any water. Their work now will likely include a look at how Freedom Industries flew under the regulatory radar.

Freedom Industries' tanks don't fall under an inspection program and the chemicals stored at the facility weren't considered hazardous enough to require environmental permitting. Essentially, Freedom Industries wasn't under state oversight at all, said Michael Dorsey, chief of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Homeland Security and Emergency Response office.

A leak in one of the company's 40,000 tanks containing the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is what caused the disruption in water service.

"In my world — I'm a hazmat guy — this stuff's below my radar screen until this happens," said Dorsey. "The tanks themselves, we don't have the regulatory authority to inspect those tanks."

There's already talk about changing that, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman said.

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