- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Feb. 2

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on water crisis:

It has been nearly 10 days since the last of the 300,000 customers of West Virginia American Water Co. were told they could once again use the water pumped from the company’s Elk River facility.

However, many customers still have valid questions about the long-term health effects of using that water.

Even today, many people still complain of a smell emitting from their taps no matter how many times the lines are flushed. And because of this, many customers - including several Charleston-area restaurants - are still using bottled water and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

The crisis began on Jan. 9 when at least 10,000 gallons of crude HCHM and PPH - chemicals used in the process of cleaning coal - had leaked into the Elk River and entered West Virginia American’s treatment facility, not far downstream. The facility treats water for about 300,000 customers in nine counties, including Kanawha.

It may end up being one of the worst environmental disasters to ever hit the state. It certainly already has been an economic disaster for many businesses which during that first weekend of the leak were forced to close their doors and, then, forced to purchase water to use later.

And now people are rightfully worried about the possible long-term health problems the leak could cause.

People have every right to know what is in their water and how it may affect their health. In the future, there has to be not only laws to protect people, but also testing, and monitoring programs in place that people can trust.

What is not needed is what is currently taking place: groups and organizations coming to West Virginia and staking their own claims in the crisis for their own reasons.




Feb. 2

The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va., on moving with caution:

Lawmakers in Charleston are considering legislation that would mandate an extra 30 minutes a day of exercise for public school students.

Rightly concerned by the state’s obesity problem among young and old, experts told members of the House Education Committee that body and mind are both crucial in developing better students.

The Move to Improve Act, as the legislation is being called, received supportive testimony Thursday and Friday in Charleston.

The bill would require students to have 30 minutes of activity a day. But backers of the bill say this would not subtract from time spent on regular classes, but could be incorporated into those classes even during poor weather when kids can’t go outside.

West Virginia Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Charles Heinlein told lawmakers Friday “the key word is ‘integrated.’ Teachers can integrate (physical activity) without detracting from other subjects.”

Heinlein said today’s students, while much more tech-savvy than in the past, also have much less active lifestyles than kids from older generations. Because of that, we are seeing even young children with already established weight problems.

Don Chapman of the West Virginia Department of Education said schools can determine the best plan for implementing extra movement during the day. On days when kids can’t go out, he proposed “action-based learning time,” simply moving during instruction, could also be part of the plan.

We believe the issues being raised in the Education Committee warrant some sort of remedial action to get kids moving again.

But we’d like to hear more from teachers on the front line, who of course will be the ones who have to control that class of gyrating kids, and then get them seated and sorted out to get back to more sedentary learning.

A lot of things sound easy in the halls of the state Capitol in Charleston. We’re not sure things will go so smoothly in our local halls of learning.




Feb. 4

Daily Mail, Charleston, W.Va., on state should listen to chemical experts:

Following Freedom Industries’ leak of 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River and the water supply of 300,000 people, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department shut down every restaurant in town.

The department has that authority.

However, had the county and the state adopted the recommendations made by the Chemical Safety Board three years ago, the health department might have had the authority to prevent such a leak.

The chemical board investigated an explosion near the methyl isocyanate plant, which killed two workers, in 2008. After the board made its recommendations public in 2011, Kanawha County officials and a few state officials talked about adopting the recommendations, but nothing came of it.

Ignoring the advice of experts in chemical safety is a gamble no one should take.

One of the recommendations called for giving the health department the power to create a Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program. Dr. Rahul Gupta, health director, favors having such a program.

“I call this a preventable crisis,” Gupta said. “Those recommendations were evidence-based.”

To this end, Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, is introducing a bill to incorporate the safety board’s recommendations.

This is not a new program. The safety board based its recommendations on a program that works that Contra Costa County, Calif., adopted in 1999.

Sanitarians in the various county and city health departments routinely inspect every restaurant in their jurisdictions, but no one takes a look at tanks that store industrial chemicals.

While Dr. Gupta has the power to close restaurants in an emergency, he needs the power to avoid such emergencies. Lawmakers should not let another year slide by in making the changes the Chemical Safety Board recommended.

Indeed, lawmakers, industry and safety experts should weed the regulations and toss out the ones that are ineffective burdens on business and society, and replace them with regulations that work.



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