July 9, 2014 marks the six-month anniversary of the major chemical spill that affected more than 300,000 people living in and around the Charleston, West Virginia area. Many people want to know if Freedom Industry has fixed the damage to the water supply and are residents confident in the safety of the water they are drinking. Perhaps, an even more important question is what, if anything, has been done to prevent an incident like this from happening again.
Most Residents Unsure if Drinking Water Is Safe
The residents of the Charleston area have heard that the drinking water is safe for them to use just as they did before the chemical spill. On the other hand, they also have heard to use their own discretion when determining what safe water usage is for their family. These contradictory comments are probably a leading reason why a recent study showed that only about one-third of Charleston residents believe the water is safe enough to drink. The remaining two-thirds are still relying on bottled water for daily use.
Over the months, investigators have been trying to determine exactly what caused the chemical spill in the first place. According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the primary theory is that the MCHM chemicals seeped into the water due to a hole in the holding tank. This review also showed that if this facility had received an inspection, the inspection would probably have detected the leak and the chemical spill would not have happened.
Are Inspections the Answer?
Unfortunately, records show that this mining chemical supply company had not received an inspection since 1991 and there were no records to indicate that the holding tanks had even received an inspection. Perhaps even worse than this is that there are no federal or state regulations which would have required these types of inspections. In fact, this industry’s regulations had deregulated years prior, with the guise they would self-regulate.
At least in the case of the Freedom Industry’s chemical spill in West Virginia, self-regulation did not work. The most frustrating part for many residents and scientists is that this leak, which affected over 300,000 people, was preventable if proper inspections would have taken place. Without stricter regulations, more residents across the country are at higher risk for a chemical spill to take place in their hometown. As was the case in Charleston, these leaks can lead to severe medical damages and illnesses.
Are Fines and Penalties Enough without Regulations?
Freedom Industry has been fined $11,000 by the Occupation, Safety, and Health Administration. In addition, many believe additional fines and the prosecution of some of the company’s top executives will occur in the near future. Will this be enough to encourage chemical-producing companies to take the necessary extra precautions to protect the residents around their plant? Alternatively, will the government need to step in and force these companies to regulate?
Unfortunately, the majority of the residents in and around Charleston are still being affected today and do not feel safe enough to drink the water. The outrage of the residents in this area did spur state representative to pass the Water Protection Bill in an effort to prevent accidents like this in the state of West Virginia. However, a national bill will need to pass through Congress to protect other states from a tragic chemical spill like this one.