Citizens at health board meeting call for more monitoring

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the public at the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health meeting Thursday evening raised a call for more monitoring of the after-effects of the January chemical spill, in light of new information from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

A study released by the CSB in Charleston on Wednesday revealed chemicals were likely to have been leaking into the Elk River prior to Jan. 9, the date the leak was discovered by state officials.

A portion of the CSB’s presentation was shown at the meeting by Nasandra Wright, the director of environmental health and safety. It showed holes, caused by corrosion due to water pooling, in three tanks that also contained a mixture of MCHM and PPH.

“Even though the incidents were highlighted on Jan. 9 there is a possibility, and it appears from the (CSB) preliminary findings, that it may have been leaking prior to Jan. 9,” Wright said. “Which leaves a lot of questions still unanswered . . . With the limited information that we know about the chemical — all the unknowns — the question still remains, where do we go from here?”

Maya Nye, the executive director for the People Concerned about Chemical Safety, said the new information is disturbing. Her organization is also petitioning the Centers for Disease Control for continued testing of MCHM.

“We need to put more pressure on the federal government and the CDC to assist our health officers for proper monitoring,” Nye said. “This is not going to go away. We also need individual citizens to speak out about this and prove that one person can make a difference.”

Among the concerned citizens present at the meeting was Charleston native Linda Sodaro, who grew up across the street from the Freedom Industries facility.

“We have a responsibility to pay attention to what is going on,” Sodaro said. “That is my river they poisoned.”

Along with Sodaro was a local mother, Karan Ireland, who said had she began to notice an odd licorice smell, which she would later find out was due to MCHM, coming from her upstairs bathroom three days before the chemical leak was reported. She is thankful for the work the board of health has done since the leak but said she is still disturbed and waiting for an apology to come from state agencies and public officials for their part in the preventable incident.

“I would like other agencies and our top official to stop saying why we can’t do (more monitoring) and I would like the federal government to step up and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Ireland said.

Health Board President Brenda Isaac was also unanimously re-elected to her post Thursday evening and she said she is looking forward to facing these and other challenges head on.

The next Board of Health meeting will be at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Contact writer Josephine Mendez at or 304-348-7917. Follow her at

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