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WSAZ Investigates | WVDEP releases initial testing results for cancer-causing chemical

WVDEP releases first round of testing for cancer-causing chemicals in Kanawha Valley
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 10:17 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – In its first round of testing for a cancer-causing chemical that’s been the focus of several WSAZ investigations, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) reported finding only a trace amount.

That’s after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said Ethylene Oxide emissions (EtO) were being released into the Kanawha Valley at one of the highest rates in the country.

Last month, we started telling you about EtO emissions around two Union Carbide facilities in Institute and South Charleston. The WVDEP says their results from this first round showed less than the equivalent of one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of EtO.

For weeks, we’ve been reporting about the two Union Carbide plants in Kanawha County releasing the colorless odorless gas that can cause cancer.

The EPA previously said the two plants were releasing EtO at a rate much higher than the agency’s benchmark level for cancer risk: one in a million.

The WVDEP says it’s doing additional testing of the air surrounding the facilities. On Thursday evening, the department released the results from the first of four rounds of tests. They said the next round of testing should be complete by the end of June.

According to the WVDEP, the initial results showed less than one parts per billion was found. They say that’s the equivalent to “one second in a 32-year time span or one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

The WVDEP said many factors can affect the results, including wind and weather data, operations at the facilities and background levels. Cabinet Secretary Harold Ward also said in the news release, “it’s important to stress that this is just the first step in the process and these results need to be reviewed with those from the remaining rounds of sampling before we can make any determinations.”

WSAZ has been trying to talk with Secretary Ward and the WVDEP for months to get answers about the risk to people who live and work around these plants. However, our calls and voicemails haven’t been answered, and our requests for an interview were ignored or denied After receiving the results from the WVDEP, we again reached out by email, phone and text -- asking for an interview in-person or over Zoom, Skype, Teams, FaceTime or phone - to give some perspective about the results.

A spokesperson initially responded to our request by saying “we are unable to facilitate an interview,” so we went to get perspective on all the new data from an expert at West Virginia University.

To hear what that expert had to say to WSAZ’s Brendan Tierney, tap or click on the video link with this story.

For previous coverage, tap on the following links: >>>> >>>> >>>> >>>> >>>>

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