Technically, West Virginia's water has been safe to drink, cook with and bathe in for two weeks now -- except for pregnant women, which has led some to wonder whether it's really safe for anyone at all. Last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told residents "it's your decision" to use the water or not.
And although the FEMA rations of bottled water ran out on Monday, many are continuing to choose not.
Included among them is Scott Simonton, an environmental scientist from Marshall University and a member of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board, who testified before a legislative panel Wednesday that he's sticking to bottled water. According to his testimony, he found formaldehyde, a cancer-causing component of the spilled chemical, in a water sample. He "can guarantee," he said, that people have been inhaling it while showering.
The ongoing crisis, however, received no mention during the president's State of the Union address. West Virginia resident Kirk Lundgren called Obama out for that in an open letter posted to his Facebook page, which was then picked up by the Huffington Post:
I am writing you as a dutiful, concerned, and stressed-out husband and expectant father from Charleston, West Virginia. My first child is due on February 20th, just three weeks away. As it currently stands, according to the CDC and our doctors, my wife, Sarah, is still not cleared to safely use the water in our home. We have been dealing with this for three weeks already, and based on the information available, it doesn't look like the water will be safe anytime soon for her use. Our water still smells like 4 methylcyclohexanol, and experts are saying that this chemical could be in our water system at a detectable amount for a very long time. I don't know how I am going to safely care for my son after he is born when I can't trust my water supply. We're not using it, so I'm surely not going to use it on my newborn.
...We live less than a mile from the spill site, and we lived in the toxic fumes that enveloped this entire city for days without any warning of inhalation dangers. We felt nauseous and had headaches constantly, and I worry how that may have affected my child. The general population, but more importantly, pregnant mothers have been ill-advised and disregarded as a public concern since the beginning of this situation, and I have had enough of it.
The damning letter goes on to make a direct appeal for federal intervention, questioning the government's commitment to West Virginian's health and safety:
As a fellow father, I am reaching out to you, and I have some questions. When is this going to become a federal matter? Do you just not care what is happening down here? Is it really just acceptable for the people of Appalachia to be ignored when things like this happen because of this region's past history? Is it not on your radar just because nobody has died? When are you going to visit here and talk to these people who are STILL suffering and see how this has affected everyone's lives? What plans do you have to help the pregnant women and the mothers of young children in this area who are still without safe water?
...There is an entire population of people like ourselves still suffering and struggling down here. We are being given no options except to bring outside water into our homes, while we receive large water bills in the mail. It is your duty to help us, and I can assure you that we most definitely need your help. Make the people responsible for this accountable both economically and criminally. Overhaul the West Virginia DEP because they are the ones who allowed this to happen. Quit allowing the coal and chemical industries down here to have despotic rule over everyone's lives. Do something people will finally respect you for in this region! Help me and others move our pregnant wives and young children out of this area into a safe environment. Lastly, use every expert you have to get safe water back to this area. If you could stop allowing things to happen that directly jeopardize my family's health and safety, maybe then I'd sign up for Obamacare.