"Weeks after health authorities had told West Virginians that their water was safe to drink again following a toxic spill, schools in Charleston sent students home abruptly last week when students and staff members detected the telltale licorice odor of the leaked chemical."
Mid-Atlantic (DC DE MD PA VA WV)
"Warnings come despite federal health officials declaring water was free from chemical contamination after January 9 spill."
While EPA and local utilities make much data available online, the Environmental Working Group has compiled a tap water database that is much easier to use. It gathers data from the states as well as from EPA, and compiles city-by-city rankings of the best and worst drinking water quality. It also explains the health significance of contaminants and lists contaminants not regulated by EPA.
After the SEJ and the Society of Professional Journalists complained January 20, 2014, about federal agency press office stonewalling in the face of the Charleston, WV, drinking water disaster, the agencies responded. Read the text of their replies here.
"Tests on the water supply in Charleston, W. Va., a week after a chemical spill tainted the city’s water system turned up traces of formaldehyde, suggesting that 'there’s a lot more we don’t know' about the consequences of the spill, an environmental expert told a state legislative committee on Wednesday."
You read about the 300,000 West Virginians who don't know if they are drinking safe water — and ask "Could it happen here?" The answer is "You betcha!" Environmental journalists have many tools for discovering drinking-water disasters-waiting-to-happen in their own bailiwicks.
Reporters scrambling to inform the 300,000 citizens of Charleston, West Virginia, about why they could not drink their tap water, what health threats it presented, and who was responsible faced a stone wall from most of the responsible government agencies in the early days of the crisis.
"CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Monday told 300,000 state residents that they should make their own decisions about using water from West Virginia American Water's Elk River plant in the wake of this month's leak of the chemical Crude MCHM."
"CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Freedom Industries, the company that fouled thousands of West Virginians' water with a chemical leak into the Elk River last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday."