CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the midst of several days of water issues in Kanawha County schools, including students and staff reporting sickness related to chemical-contaminated water, government and water company officials continue to say there is no clear link between the chemical detected at the schools and the reported maladies.
Friday was the third straight day that the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM, which leaked into the Elk River in early January, was either reported or found at local schools.
At about 8 a.m. Friday, lab results showed that the chemical was detected at 18.33 parts per billion at George Washington High School in Charleston, according to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. That's well below the 1-part-per-million standard that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said is OK for everyone except pregnant women.
GW did not close Friday. Another sample taken Friday morning showed "non-detect" levels at the school.
The test result was not posted to the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management website until just after 1 p.m. Friday. At a legislative hearing Friday morning, state HSEM Director Jimmy Gianato said that when test results come back to his department, they are posted online within five minutes.
Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said that, previously, counties have gotten the results before they are sent to him to post on the website.
Eighteen schools reported the odor on Thursday and Friday, according to Kanawha County school officials. Only one test at those schools -- the one at GW -- found evidence of the chemical.
On Thursday, three Charleston elementary schools, J.E. Robins, Watts and Overbrook, sent students home early after staff members reported the odor.
Nicole Carte, a cook at J.E. Robins, said that when she turned on the dishwasher Thursday morning, she immediately smelled licorice and her eyes began burning. Brandy Holstein, another cook, became nauseous.
Riverside High and Midland Trail Elementary, both in the Belle area, released students early Wednesday and were closed Thursday because of complaints of the chemical's telltale licorice odor.
One Riverside teacher fainted and was taken to the hospital. A student also was taken to the hospital. Several others complained of lightheadedness, burning eyes and burning noses.
Lora Young, the head cook at Midland Trail, said she felt dizzy and faint all morning.
Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said Friday that a "rapid response team" was assembled and will now determine if schools should close because of the water.
"At GW, we can continue on with school because, my understanding is, it was below the acceptable threshold but higher than what the governor suggested. That's why we called this team together -- to determine whether schools should close," Duerring said. "What we were told was that a smell doesn't mean it's unsafe. Everybody's different."
All of the reported symptoms were from breathing the licorice-scented air, not from contact with, or ingestion of, the water. However, there are no plans for any kind of air-quality or water-vapor testing.
Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said there has been no discussion of air-quality testing in schools.
As far as air-quality testing more generally, Gianato referred questions to the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Allison Adler, a DHHR spokeswoman, said the agency hasn't done any air-quality testing in several years and has no plans to do any. She referred questions to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Tom Aluise, a DEP spokesman, said the department "does not have the analytical instrumentation suitable for measuring an organic compound like MCHM." He said the agency had reached out to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for possible assistance.