Also Friday, officials continue to discount the reported symptoms, saying that the schools' water has shown "non-detect" levels of the coal-cleaning chemical and there is not yet a clear link between the chemical and the illnesses.
All five schools that closed for some period this week tested at "non-detect" levels before and after the incidents. That does not mean there was no chemical at the schools, though, it just means there was less than 10 parts per billion, the minimum level at which the state tests for.
The state's "non-detect" level is 1,000 times stricter than the CDC standard, but the chemical often is detectable by smell even when it's not detectable by lab.
Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, said he could not speak to reported illnesses when the schools were testing at "non-detect" levels.
"I'm a fact-based guy, I'm a numbers guy. I know that the school was non-detect," McIntyre said Thursday. "I can't talk about health-based effect and people's effect on themselves or what they may feel or what they may go to the hospital for. I can't connect the two -- I have no facts to connect them."
Dr. Tanja Popovic, director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, also could not reconcile the "non-detect" levels with the illnesses.
"The screening levels that we've recommended and have been confirmed are the ones that allowed people to use the water without harm from MCHM," Popovic said Wednesday. "It's very hard for me to say now that these symptoms are associated with MCHM, when the levels are non-detectable."
At the legislative hearing Friday morning, Gianato, said, "We don't know why they're getting sick.
"One of the principals told us they had several students with stomach viruses and strep throat."
That echoed previous statements by Dr. Letitia Tierney, commissioner of the state Bureau of Public Health, who blamed chemical-related hospital visits on flu season, anxiety and lack of hand washing.
Tierney was scheduled to speak at Friday's legislative hearing, but canceled. A spokeswoman said she had previously scheduled meetings.
Those explanations weren't good enough for Senate Majority Leader John Unger, the chairman of the Water Resources Committee that Gianato spoke to.
"Jimmy Gianato says they've tested all the schools and the levels are low, but then I come out of the meeting, and the Kanawha County Health Department officials tell me that, just this morning, GW was tested above the level," Unger said. "I hear what the authorities are saying, but I also hear what the people are saying, and they don't say the same thing. There is a major disconnect going on.
"It reminds me of that old [movie] (what is it?) 'A Few Good Men': 'You can't handle the truth.' I keep picturing that, and I hope it's not the case."
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, also ridiculed the psychosomatic explanation of illnesses.
"We obviously cannot explain away [symptoms] by saying it's the flu or something else," Gupta said Wednesday. "At this time, we shouldn't even try to."
Unger agreed. "You can't just say people are sick because they think they're sick, especially when it's children," he said. "That's unacceptable."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.