Lt. Col. Greg Grant, commander of the West Virginia National Guard's 35th Civil Support Team, said the original 10 civil support teams set up in the 1990s have expanded to 57 units in every state and U.S. territory. West Virginia's team includes 22 fulltime members, some of whom have backgrounds in science and chemistry.
At the peak of the water emergency, Grant said a total of four support teams were in West Virginia, taking and logging water samples, transporting the samples to several labs set up to evaluate the water and keeping track of the results. As testing has slowed, the number of teams taking samples has been scaled back to two.
Grant said more than 1,500 water samples have been taken.
State and federal officials set a threshold of one part per million of MCHM before residents were told they could use their water. Hoyer said that's the equivalent of an ounce of liquid in a 7,500-gallon tanker truck. The labs set up to test the local water supply can detect the chemical down to 10 parts per billion, or about six drops in the same truck.
So far, civil support teams from Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have been called in to assist with testing.
Kirkland said his Virginia unit was told on Jan. 15 they'd be coming to West Virginia. "On the 16th, we were on the road driving up here," he said.
Kirkland, who has been a member of a civil support team since 2001, said the units are capable of doing their own testing, but labs in West Virginia had already been set up to test the water. He said the quick response of the units is invaluable during a chemical or other crisis.
"The great thing about the National Guard is you can deploy a lot faster than the federal government, because you're under control of the individual governors," he said.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.