Four months after the Elk River chemical spill, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health began to gather information about the effects of the spill on residents. As we have noted in our past two posts, the Elk River is the primary source of water for about 300,000 people in West Virginia's capital, Charleston.
The company responsible for the spill, Freedom Industries Inc., had no idea what the risks of exposure to the primary chemical mixture in the spill, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or "crude MCHM." They were not alone, though: State health authorities were equally at sea. As the right hand struggled to clean up the mess (Freedom Industries sought bankruptcy protection a month after the spill), the left hand struggled to understand what could possibly happen to anyone who was exposed to the contaminated water.