Originally published May 15 2014
Water-related illness affects one-third of homes after West Virginia chemical leak
by Julie Wilson
(NaturalNews) A chemical leak affecting at least 300,000 residents in West Virginia has been under investigation since January when the leak occurred, reported The Charleston Gazette. April 3-8, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department conducted a randomized phone survey in which 507 people answered 72 questions regarding the leak.
The results revealed residents' frustration and high levels of distrust for local, state and federal government.
West Virginia American Water, the area's regional water company, received an "F" in trustworthiness from 38 percent of respondents. The federal government's response was also given an "F" from approximately 37 percent of respondents, and state and local government's also got "Fs" from 31 percent and 18 percent of respondents, respectively.
The survey's full results are expected to be revealed Monday at 5 p.m. at the University of Charleston's Riggleman Hall. A team from Harvard's School of Public Health will also be at the meeting presenting separate research related to the chemical spill.
The meeting is open to the public.
"We're going to be talking about how many of those people went to the doctor," Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Health Department, said Thursday. "If they didn't go, what were their reasons for not going -- did they not have insurance, did they not have access, did they not feel their illness was bad enough? We have all this data that we're tabulating."
Residents in nearly nine counties were left without access to clean drinking water for almost 10 days. The Observer-Reporter states that the affected areas experienced a $61 million hit to their economy, forcing many restaurants, hotels and other businesses to close temporarily, and some permanently.
Deno Stanley, owner of Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille in Charleston, suffered $38,000 in lost revenue after his business was forced to close for eight days following the spill. Stanley's business also suffered financially due to unexpected costs from purchasing bottled water and changing filters in soda and ice machines.
Today, they are still serving their customers bottled water.
Following the January leak, Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille filed a lawsuit against the entities responsible, adding to the list of more than 60 civil action suits currently pending against companies involved, including Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water.
Some businesses attempted to collect insurance claims, while others sought government loans.
Danny Fazio, owner of the restaurant Fazio's, said his insurance wouldn't cover lost revenue due to the chemical spill. Fazio's is also still serving and cooking with bottled water, a practice that's cost him $10,000 over four months.
"That's money I lost and didn't deserve to lose," Fazio said. "Neither did anybody else."
Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille was also unable to collect from their insurance policy. Matthew Ballard, president/CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance, a local chamber of commerce, said it was hit or miss whether policies would cover damages accrued from the spill.
Freedom Industries, the company primarily responsible for leaking 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a chemical used for cleaning coal, conveniently filed bankruptcy just eight days after the spill. The legal actions against the company were temporarily frozen, causing businesses to lose hope in regaining lost funds due to the spill.
Freedom Industries, whose owner is a two-time convicted felon, reportedly owes hundreds of groups money.
Adding to the heartache, the sister company of West Virginia American Water, American Water Works, vowed to use its latest earnings to "vigorously contest the lawsuits."
West Virginia referred companies to the federal Small Business Administration, which created economic disaster loans. Administration spokesman David Hall said 10 businesses applied, but six withdrew their applications, and the remaining four were denied. Hall said reasons for denial were confidential but ranged from credit history to an inability to repay loans.
Some workers who lost wages due the spill were reimbursed through the United Way of Central West Virginia, a charity known for helping communities. The organization donated $112,000 to 625 workers earning minimum wage from businesses forced to close after the spill.
CNN reported in late March that water sampled in areas affected still contained 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, but officials said the levels were safe for public consumption.
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