All schools to have water reevaluated this weekend
ByFrom staff reports
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Water supplies at all public schools in the nine-county area affected by the Freedom Industries chemical spill will be reevaluated this weekend. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered that 109 different facilities be examined. Teams will visit the sites and decide whether further water testing is needed, said state Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordiero. A much stricter standard will be applied to those schools that require further testing. Instead of 10 parts per billion, officials will make certain all samples test below 2 parts per billion for crude MCHM. "We have been testing water in all of our schools at the governor's more stringent level of 10 parts per billion, which is 100 times more rigorous than Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommend level of 1 part per million," Adj. Gen. James Hoyer said in a press release. "After testing thousands of lab samples, chemists can now confidently test at 2 (parts per billion)."Officials expect to have results by mid-week. Concerns have arose at several local schools in recent weeks as some students and teachers complained of smelling the telltale licorice odor associated with crude MCHM, the coal-cleaning agent that leaked into the Elk River in early January. Some have also reported symptoms of burning eyes, itchy skin, dizziness and headaches. One teacher was evaluated at a hospital. Any school that tests above the two parts per billion threshold this weekend will be re-flushed and retested. Moving forward, the Rapid Response Team established earlier this month will continue to answer and investigate calls. "Student safety continues to be our top priority," Tomblin said in a press release. "As a parent, I understand that families need the additional peace of mind that comes with this testing." Schools will continue to provide hand sanitizer and bottled water for drinking and cooking. West Virginia American Water said in a separate announcement Thursday that all samples taken from throughout the distribution system have tested below 10 parts per billion.