Water Crisis Survey: Depression and Illness Linked to MCHM Spill

By: Rebekah Pewitt, The Associated Press Email
By: Rebekah Pewitt, The Associated Press Email
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UPDATE 5/12/14 @ 10:55 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Nearly 500 people took a lengthy survey about the chemical crisis from Jan. 9.

Monday night, the results were revealed and the overwhelming consensus seems to be a lack of trust when it comes to the West Virginia American Water and the state and local governments.

The survey, which was mainly done by phone, was divided into four categories: physical effects, psychosocial effects, economic impacts and the amount of trust placed in those involved.

The water was contaminated by the chemical MCHM. It spilled into the Elk River near the West Virginia American Water intake by a leaky tank at Freedom Industries.

Nearly 300,000 customers were affected.

These were among some of the findings:

  • The results showed that 43 percent of people surveyed reported some kind of water-related illness.

  • 25 percent went a step further and sought medical attention.

  • The spill went beyond physical illness. It caused mental anguish, as well.

  • 37 percent of people said they were constantly worried, while 29 percent said they were constantly stressed.

  • For smaller amounts of people depression and anger set in.

  • The results showed that not only did the crisis wear on people's nerves but also their wallets.

  • 20 percent of respondents spent between $200 to $500 to deal with the crisis.

  • 40 percent of people said they spent less than $100.

Jenni Burns is a business owner who says the cost to her was much greater.

"We got shut down that Thursday through that Monday, so I lost thousands of dollars through that weekend," Burns said.

But she, along with hundreds of others surveyed, said they still don't trust the water or West Virginia American Water.

Nearly 40 percent of people give West Virginia American Water an "F" rating when it comes to trustworthiness.

Thirty-seven percent of people say they don't trust the information related to the water coming from the Federal Government. Roughly 30 percent say they don't trust the information coming from the state government.

ORIGINAL STORY 5/12/14 @ 9:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Nearly one-fourth of Kanawha County residents responding to a health survey say they ignored a water-use ban in some form after a January chemical spill in West Virginia.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department conducted the random telephone survey of 499 adults in the county from April 3 through 8. The results were released Monday.

The Jan. 9 spill of a coal-cleaning agent from Freedom Industries' plant into the Elk River in Charleston contaminated 300,000 people's tap water in nine counties.

A do-not-use order lasted four to 10 days, depending on the areas where it was lifted in stages. The order allowed only toilet flushing and for dousing fires.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said they used their tap water for other purposes during the ban, including some who said they drank it.

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