CDC official who dealt with water crisis resigns

Dr. Tanja Popovic, acting director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, resigned from her post last week. In a February visit to Charleston, she said the CDC doesn't use the word "safe." She said the question is whether the water is appropriate for use.

A health official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who helped respond to the Freedom Industries chemical spill has resigned.

Tanja Popovic, acting director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, stepped down after she clashed with former Marines who claimed their families were harmed by drinking poisoned water at Camp LeJune, N.C.

Popovic also had assured 300,000 West Virginians their water was “appropriate for use” at a February news conference. She told residents they could drink the water, bathe in it or use it however they would like, but she declined to characterize the water as “safe.”

“We’re not really talking about if the water is safe, we’re talking about is the water appropriate for use, given the information we know about MCHM,” Popovic said after the press conference.

“We do not use the term safe . . . because that does not well describe what we can do with the information that we have,” she added.

At the time of the news conference, the CDC was not ready to say if the symptoms some people felt after drinking the contaminated water were connected to the spill. Popovic said at the time, based on the severity of symptoms, it is “unlikely” the spill would cause long-term effects.

Popovic’s biographical information has been removed from the CDC website.

Burnadette Burden, public affairs specialist for the CDC, said Popovic was in the position from Jan. 26 to March 17 and confirmed her resignation. She declined to comment further, saying the issue is a personnel matter.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or Follow her at*

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