Toxic gas leak concerns community
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found two natural gas leaks in the Charleston area, including highly toxic chemicals that were flowing into a neighborhood.
The hydrogen sulfide (H2S) leak was found along with a natural gas leak on Monday near Crouch Hollow, according to DEP acting Communications Director Terry Fletcher. The DEP could not confirm how long either well was leaking before neighbors reported health issues from exposure to the gas.
David Bentley said he has been dealing with medical problems for months due to the gas exposure, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, foaming urine and not being able to sleep. Bentley’s entire body has also been covered in a rash that he said is more like a chemical burn.
“It’s about my health,” Bentley said. “I don’t know how much time I have got left. I mean, seriously, I am as skinny as a frail man. Broke out all over, dried up, leathered up, can’t think, can’t sleep. From what I understand, I have a 50/50 chance of fighting this. That is if someone can get out here and find out what is going on.”
Bentley said he found the leak while building a hunting blind near the H2S tank. As a former firefighter, he used a gas meter to determine it was unsafe and get out of the area. However, his dogs and family were already exposed and have also been dealing with significant health issues.
Fletcher said the DEP could not comment on the health risks associated with exposure to these chemicals, and instead referred WSAZ to federal safety regulators for information on the dangers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said H2S is extremely flammable and highly toxic even at low concentrations.
“Effects range from mild, headaches or eye irritation, to very serious, unconsciousness and death,” according to OSHA.
Resident Diana Brown said she knew something was wrong when she came into the hollow and started smelling gas in the air. She is currently dealing with a scratchy throat, cough and loss of voice from breathing the gas, and is concerned for elderly people who live in the area and have been struggling because of the leak.
Fletcher said the natural gas well is abandoned and the DEP will need to fix the leak. The H2S well is still active and owned by a gas company that was called to the area on Monday but was not able to make the necessary repairs.
Kanawha County Emergency Management Director CW Sigman said the H2S leak has been stopped with a temporary fix as the company works to find a permanent solution.
Creeks in the hollow flow into the Elk River. West Virginia American Water said it does not have any source water concerns related to this gas leak.
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