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Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Jan 20;49(2):813-23.

Residential tap water contamination following the Freedom Industries chemical spill: perceptions, water quality, and health impacts.

Abstract

During January 2014, an industrial solvent contaminated West Virginia’s Elk River and 15% of the state population’s tap water. A rapid in-home survey and water testing was conducted 2 weeks following the spill to understand resident perceptions, tap water chemical levels, and premise plumbing flushing effectiveness. Water odors were detected in all 10 homes sampled before and after premise plumbing flushing. Survey and medical data indicated flushing caused adverse health impacts. Bench-scale experiments and physiochemical property predictions showed flushing promoted chemical volatilization, and contaminants did not appreciably sorb into cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipe. Flushing reduced tap water 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (4-MCHM) concentrations within some but not all homes. 4-MCHM was detected at unflushed (<10 to 420 μg/L) and flushed plumbing systems (<10 to 96 μg/L) and sometimes concentrations differed among faucets within each home. All waters contained less 4-MCHM than the 1000 μg/L Centers for Disease Control drinking water limit, but one home exceeded the 120 μg/L drinking water limit established by independent toxicologists. Nearly all households refused to resume water use activities after flushing because of water safety concerns. Science based flushing protocols should be developed to expedite recovery, minimize health impacts, and reduce concentrations in homes when future events occur.

PMID:
25513829
DOI:
10.1021/es5040969
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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