With the approach of the one-year anniversary of the Elk River chemical spill this coming Friday, several West Virginia University faculty members are available to discuss the various impacts of the spill, which left approximately 300,000 residents without water for days.
Some WVU faculty members have expertise that is directly related to the issue and others have been conducting research stemming from the spill or been active in related public policy development.
On Jan. 9 last year, 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a chemical used in washing coal, leaked into the Elk River from holding tanks. Authorities advised residents in parts of nine West Virginia counties not to use their tap water for anything but flushing toilets. Besides interrupting running water service for days, the spill led to legislation regulating above-ground chemical storage tanks and calling for a study of the long-term health effects following the spill.
WVU faculty members with expertise on various aspects of the spill, its impact and handling, include:
- Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, was immediately involved in deciphering the chemicals involved, MCHM and PPH, for the media and eventually testified before the legislature’s Joint Commission on Water and Natural Resources in the West Virginia legislature. He can be reached at Paul.Ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu or by phone at 304-293-6958.
- Jennifer Weidhaas, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, has led WVU’s research on samples taken from the water system in Charleston that showed how the chemical moved through the system and how effective the remediation efforts were. She can be reached at Jennifer.Weidhaas@mail.wvu.edu.
- Emily Corio, a teaching assistant professor in the Reed College of Media, interviewed reporters and editors following the spill to examine the challenges of reporting on a health and safety story of this magnitude. She later presented that information at a conference for a chemical safety program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army. She can be reached via email at Emily.Corio@mail.wvu.edu
- Robert Duval teaches environmental politics and policy at WVU and is currently the interim chair for the Department of Health Policy, Management and Leadership at the School of Public Health. He has also served as an environmental policy analyst/economist for the state of Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com and 304-581-1826.
- Todd Petty is a professor of forestry and natural resources at WVU who studies river ecology and is knowledgeable about chemical pollution and its effects on river ecosystems and fisheries. He can be reached at Todd.Petty@mail.wvu.edu and 304-376-2933.
- Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, is serving on the Governor’s Public Water System Supply Study Commission. To reach him, contact Amy Johns, director of public affairs at WVU Healthcare and Health Sciences at 304-293-1412.
- Elizabeth Scharman is director of the West Virginia Poison Center. In the months following the resolution of the spill she participated in meetings to review the response and evaluate disaster plans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-347-1212 (office) or 304-610-0519 (mobile).
- The School of Medicine in Charleston has various medical experts who can speak to the care offered during the crisis and expertise on the short- and long-term health risks of the spill. Contact Jeff Driggs at 304-347-1283 or email@example.com.
- John Deskins is director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research at WVU. His work focuses in part on how various economic events, such as the chemical spill, may affect the broader West Virginia economy. He may be reached at John.Deskins@mail.wvu.edu.
- Patrick McGinley is a law professor who specializes in environmental justice, environmental impacts and regulation. He can be reached at Patrick.McGinley@mail.wvu.edu.
- Jesse Richardson is associate professor of law and lead land use attorney at WVU where he focuses on land use and water law. He can be reached at Jesse.Richardson@mail.wvu.edu.
- Joshua Fershee is a law professor who specializes in energy business law and regulation enforcement. He can be reached at Joshua.Fershee@mail.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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