CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Looking back on a week of water, water everywhere ...
On the positive side:
* FEMA and state Emergency Services did an extraordinarily good job of getting bottled water to the affected communities.
In less than 12 hours from the evening of Jan. 10, when stores had been emptied of bottled water and folks were literally fighting for the last few bottles, bottled water was plentiful and available at multiple free distribution sites and at numerous retailers who were restocked overnight.
A week after the event, emergency officials had distributed about 15 million bottles -- or about 50 bottles per person in the affected area.
Given the state's history of dealing with floods, storms, and the derecho, it's not surprising that state emergency services providers have gotten pretty good at emergency drinking water distribution.
* After stumbling in the hours immediately after the chemical leak, the governor's office did a good job with frequent updates on the status of the emergency, even though as <B>Donald Rumsfeld<P> says, there were a lot of known unknowns about the nature of the crisis.
On the negative:
* State regulatory officials obviously dropped the ball allowing a frankly sketchy company to store large quantities of hazardous material in 70-year-old tanks without frequent inspections and oversight.
One suspects that those in charge looked at Freedom Industries' Tier 2 form, and saw low NGPA numbers and a high LD50 for Crude MCHM, and concluded that, compared to some of the chemicals that have been unloosed in the valley over the years, the stuff wasn't super toxic or dangerous.
* Likewise, it is incomprehensible an Emergency Response Plan was not in place to address emergencies that could compromise the region's water supply, or that the state has no regulations in place to inspect chemical storage facilities.
* While Gov. <B>Earl Ray Tomblin's<P> handling of the water crisis was generally positive, many were put off by his continual defense of the coal industry, repeatedly insisting that "this was not a coal company incident. This was a chemical company incident."
It's hard to sell that differentiation, considering that the chemical is used to clean coal, and without the coal industry, there would be no Freedom Industries, and no Crude MCHM in the Kanawha Valley.