Odor Part of W.Va. MCHM Study Underway

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Results from the first phase of in-home testing in the areas affected by the water crisis won't be complete for a few more weeks.

Experts with the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project held a news conference Friday in Charleston to update the public on its in-home testing initiative.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin initially dedicated $650,000 to this project in hopes of restoring faith in the water supply to those affected by the water crisis. WVTAP announced Friday it's now asking for an additional $112,000 to help complete the project.

Dr. Andrew Whelton, a scientist from the University of South Alabama, says significant progress has been made on the team's major objectives.

Earlier this week, the team completed the first phase of testing in 10 homes.

During the testing, 90 samples were taken from each home. The team spent two to four hours at each location, testing plumbing and water in sinks and bathtubs. Both hot and cold water samples were taken from homes. 1 parts per billion (1ppb) will be used as the standard for this study.

Samples were taken from all the counties affected, but Jackson County. Dr. Wheldon says they couldn't find a participant there for the project.

Experts say the samples were sent off to different labs in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and California. Right now, the samples are still being analyzed. The results aren't expected to be completed for another one to three weeks.

Dr. Whelton says UCLA has committed three laboratories for the studies. He says he asked experts to "drop what you're doing" to participate in the study.

WVTAP has three objectives for this first phase of in-home testing.

The first objective was to determine the odor threshold for the chemical MCHM. Dr. Whelton says the screening level for the odor threshold will involve experts and consumers.

The team is also creating a panel of experts to determine the safety level of MCHM.

They will also check types of pipes in this home study.

However, taste testing will not be part of this study because the majority of the complaints from homeowners center around the odor, according to experts.

Dr. Whelton says once the results have been completed, they will be posted online. The results from this initial phase will be used to design a larger study for the in-home sampling project.

Some of the results have been returned, but the team of experts is still analyzing what they mean. The team believes it would be irresponsible to post the results without knowing what everything means.

Dr. Whelton says any testing done by any entity needs to be scientifically correct and transparent.

However, WVTAP is not releasing names or exact locations of where they took the samples.

Dr. Whelton says this testing should have been done 10 years ago before there was ever a water emergency.

"This is not simply a West Virginia project," Dr. Whelton said. He believes the federal government should also do testing.

Experts say there was no blueprint on how to respond to a situation like this and he believes a lot of lessons have been learned from this.

Dr. Whelton says he didn't drink the water from the tap when he arrived in mid-January. However, he is now using it.

The water for 300,000 people was contaminated last month when the chemical MCHM leaked into the Elk River from Freedom Industries.

To read more about the WVTAP project, click on the link to the right of this article.

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