Saturday, January 11, 2014

There's trouble in the water

The recent chemical spill in the Elk River in West Virgina has left 9 counties and hundreds of thousands of people without water for drinking, washing or other daily water usage. It has affected homes, and businesses. On January 9, an unknown amount, believed to be in the thousands of gallons,  of the chemical foaming agent 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked into the river.

4-methylcyclohexane methanol is a colorless liquid used to clean coal. Exposure can lead to dizziness and nausea, along with skin and eye irritation. This chemical is dangerous if inhaled or ingested. The chemical leaked from tanks owned and maintained by Freedom Industries, which will be held responsible for the cleanup.

This spill has again highlighted the need for greater chemical security measures and regulations for chemical start-up, shutdown and malfunction procedures. Companies should have written procedures to prevent accidents on start-up, shutdown and during malfunctions. There also needs to be more protections for citizens who live near these areas who will be affected by these chemical disasters. Unfortunately, right now, the burden is put on the citizens and not the industries. This needs to be reversed. In August, Obama signed an Executive Order to improve chemical security in the US, since it is also a national security issue, but the industry is fighting it by busing its own people into hearings and threatening job security for its employees. This is unfair and continues the falsehood that a clean, healthy environment must come at the cost of jobs.

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