U.S. Agency: West Virginia DHHR Can’t Handle Chemical Incidents

"CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources lacks a program and properly trained staff to assess community-wide chemical exposures like those that followed the Elk River chemical leak in January, federal public health officials said in a new review made public Tuesday.

U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry officials reported that the DHHR and its Bureau for Public Health do not have a program aimed at assessing patterns, causes and effects of chemical or radiological incidents, or other environmental emergencies. The ATSDR recommended that the state start such a program, hire new staff for it, and ensure those staff are properly trained.

'There is potential for many different types of disasters to occur in West Virginia, such as an infectious-disease pandemic, winter storms with widespread power outages, wind disasters such as tornadoes or derechos, flooding, wildfires and extreme heat,' the ATSDR said. 'Man-made disasters such as chemical or nuclear incidents or mass-casualty incidents like bridge collapses could occur as a result of an accident or be deliberate terrorist attacks.'"

Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette August 19, 2014.

Source: Charleston Gazette, 08/20/2014