January 9, 2014: MCHM Chemical Spill in West Virginia. “Charleston, WV; January 9, 2014. 7:46AM. You’re trying to get your children up, fix breakfast and get them ready for school. You stick your head out the door to see how cold it is, and a wave of something smelling like black licorice hits you. The Elk River below you seems fine, but that odor is rolling off the surface. None of the radio news stations are saying anything. Wait. You know where your water comes from-the Elk River. Is the drinking water safe? You call the water department to find out what’s going on.
Sounding the Alarm: Do Not Use!
So began the day for 300,000 people in Charleston, West Virginia and in the surrounding nine counties. A tweet from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin at 2:36 PM on January 9 previewed the 5:45 pm press conference where a Do Not Use order was issued by West Virginia American Water (WVAW) for all of the water in their service area. (A Do Not Use order is the most serious warning that can be given for drinking water. It means that tap water can only be used for flushing toilets and fighting fires.) At the press conference, the governor declared a state of emergency for the affected area.
It later became clear that a spill of about 10,000 gallons of something called Crude MCHM took place at a Freedom Industries facility 1.5 miles above the intake of the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant (KVWTP), which is run by WVAW. When the spill actually occurred and when the material entered the water treatment plant has not been determined at this writing. The maximum MCHM concentration measured in the influent to the plant was about 3.4 mg/1. No one has adequately explained why the plant intake was not shut down early on January 9.
By 7 PM on January 9 a full-blown water-buying panic had gripped the area. Cases of bottled water were stripped from shelves within a 20-mile radius of Charleston. The morning of January 10, President Obama declared the nine counties a federal disaster area.”
Reference: McGuire, M.J., 2014. “The West Virginia Chemical Spill: A Massive Loss in Public Confidence.” Source. CA NV Section AWWA, 28:3:31 Summer.
January 9, 1985: Plane crashes into Kansas water treatment plant. “Last January the Board of Public Works (BPU) of Kansas City, Kansas was the victim of an airplane crash at their Quindaro water treatment plant complex. Although all members of the airplane’s crew were killed, the members of the BPU operations staff on duty that morning were unharmed, although shook up. The airplane managed to miss two nearby power plant structures, the east side of the treatment plant, and the chemical treatment plant building where the four employees were working, but landed in a primary basin less than 50 feet away from the building. An intensive manpower effort was launched to get the debris cleaned up and the plant back in operation as soon as possible. Three weeks to the day after the crash, the basin without a walkway bridge was returned to service. Kermit
Mangum, the water plant superintendent, is scheduled to talk about this story at the KSAWWA conference in Wichita.”
Commentary: Thanks to Paul Crocker of the Kansas City BPU for providing this information.
January 9, 2012: New York Times headline—Haiti: Cholera Epidemic’s First Victim Identified as River Bather Who Forsook Clean Water. “The first Haitian to get cholera at the onset of the 2010 epidemic was almost undoubtedly a 28-year-old mentally disturbed man from the town of Mirebalais, researchers reported Monday.
The man, whose name was not revealed in the report, in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, was known as the village “moun fou” — Creole for “crazy person” — said the authors, who work for Partners in Health, a Boston group associated with Dr. Paul E. Farmer that has provided free health care in Haiti since 1987.
Although his family had clean drinking water, the man often walked naked through town to bathe and drink from the Latem River just downstream from the Meye River, into which raw sewage drained from an encampment of United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal.
Haiti’s outbreak was of a Nepali strain, and that encampment is considered the source.
The man developed severe diarrhea on Oct. 12, 2010, and died in less than 24 hours. Two people who washed his body for a wake fell ill 48 hours later. Haiti’s first hospitalized cholera case was in Mirebalais on Oct. 17.
The epidemic has since sickened nearly 500,000 people across Haiti and killed nearly 7,000.”
Commentary: The death toll is now about 10,000 with no end in sight. The UN finally took some responsibility for starting the epidemic. It was caused by poor sanitation habits of Nepalese soldiers who were stationed in Haiti to aid in recovery from the devastating earthquake.
January 9, 1997: New York Times headline— For Third World, Water Is Still a Deadly Drink. By Nicholas Kristof “THANE, India— Children like the Bhagwani boys scamper about barefoot on the narrow muddy paths that wind through the labyrinth of a slum here, squatting and relieving themselves as the need arises, as casual about the filth as the bedraggled rats that nose about in the raw sewage trickling beside the paths.
Parents, like Usha Bhagwani, a rail-thin 28-year-old housemaid, point out their children and fret about how to spend their rupees. Should they buy good food so that the children will get stronger? Or should they buy shoes so that the children will not get hookworms? Or should they send their sons and daughters to school? Or should they buy kerosene to boil the water?
There is not enough money for all of those needs, so parents must choose. It was to save money, as well as to save time, that Mrs. Bhagwani was serving unboiled water the other day to her 5- and 7-year-old boys in her one-room hovel. Her bony face and sharp eyes softened as she watched them take the white plastic cup and gulp the deadly drink.
The water has already killed two of her children, a 15-month-old, Santosh, a boy who died two years ago, and Sheetal, a frail 7-month-old girl who died just a few months ago. But everyone in the slum drinks the water, usually without boiling, and water seems so natural and nurturing that Mrs. Bhagwani does not understand the menace it contains.”