In a press release issued Saturday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office explained that issue this way: "MCHM may temporarily adhere to plastic pipelines which could result in a lingering licorice smell for some time. The chemical is such that you can continue to smell it, even at 100,000 times below the no observable adverse effect level."
Messina said that those statements were based on consultations with Louisville Water Co., which he said developed its own odor threshold for Crude MCHM. State officials could not immediately provide any documents explaining how that was done, and Louisville Water officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Eastman Chemical Co., which makes Crude MCHM, says on its "material safety data sheet" that there is "no data available" concerning an odor threshold below which people will not smell the material.
On its Facebook page, West Virginia American Water makes statements about the chemical's odor that are nearly identical to those made in the Tomblin press release.
"The water may still have an odor," the company says. "Odors can be detected at levels far below the level that the Centers for Disease Control determined is protective of public health. In fact, the odor threshold is 100,000 times lower than the adverse effect level established by the CDC."
Likewise, on its "How to Flush Your Plumbing System" guidance distributed online, West Virginia American Water told customers, "Any lingering smell, which is expected, is not a health issue."
Last week, though, there were somewhat conflicting accounts provided about the developing of the flushing guidance given to residents.
Asked, for example, where the 15-minute time period for hot water came from, West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said, "These details were provided to us by WVDHHR for inclusion in the flushing guidance document.
"I do not have specifics as to how they came to this number, but I would expect that it has to do with the average size of hot water tanks and the rate of flow."
When DHHR was asked a similar question, agency officials responded, "West Virginia American Water Company's 'flushing guidance' was reviewed by the state Health Officer, the Bureau for Public Health's Office of Environmental Health Services, and by the affected local health departments.
"Both state and local health officials concurred with the guidelines developed by West Virginia American Water Company to ensure water quality," the state agency said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at 304-348-1702 or kw...@wvgazette.com