The West Virginia Chemical Spill: Chemists React
Feb17

The West Virginia Chemical Spill: Chemists React

Today's post is by Amanda Yarnell, assistant managing editor of C&EN's science/technology/education group. As part of our coverage of the West Virginia chemical spill, C&EN contacted a number of ACS members living in the affected area. We couldn’t fit all their stories into our report, so we’re sharing pieces of them here. Their tales reflect those of many Charleston area residents, who found out on January 9 that their tap water had been contaminated with a chemical used in coal processing. And they give a chemist’s perspective on the spill’s effects on daily life. Like other residents, the chemists C&EN spoke to headed out to buy water when they heard the news. Retired chemist Barbara Warren, who lives more than 2 miles from the Kahawha and Elk rivers, drove to her local Rite Aid. “The parking lot was full of cars. There was no water remaining there, nor was there any milk, juice, soft drinks, or any nonalcoholic drinks of any kinds. There were many empty shelves. Many were buying beer and wine and large bags of ice.” When she got home, she and her husband found that they still had water in their 1991 pop-top Volkswagen van, leftover from a fall camping trip. A few days later, it rained, and her husband collected about 60 gallons of rainwater in coolers. “We used this for washing ourselves and dishes. I used two huge crab pots to keep hot water on the stove which could be mixed with cold rain water for warm water.” Madan Bhasin also found a way to get clean, despite the water ban. The chief scientific adviser at Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center drained his hot water heater as soon as he heard the news. “I used it to take a nice warm bath.” Xiaoping Sun, a chemistry professor at the University of Charleston, lives and works in the affected area. “Per the order, the water could only be used for flushing toilets and extinguishing fires,” he says. “Routine tasks such as brushing our teeth required thought to remind ourselves to not turn on the tap water. Washing dishes, laundry, and hands – these basic routine tasks could have put our family in harm.” Although officials have cleared tap water to drink for all but pregnant women and children, Sun and other chemists C&EN spoke with continue to stick to bottled water for drinking and cooking. “We ask whether they are using bottled water before eating in restaurants,” adds Sun’s U of Charleston chemistry colleague Juliana Serafin. Warren installed a 10-inch countertop filter on her kitchen faucet with the best activated carbon 0.5 micron filter...

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This Week on CENtral Science: XPRIZE Science, Nanotech Safety, and more
Sep20

This Week on CENtral Science: XPRIZE Science, Nanotech Safety, and more

Tweet of the Week: OH: OMG, she LOVES biology. When she gets drunk, that's all she talks about.— LeighKrietschBoerner (@LeighJKBoerner) September 20, 2013 To the network: Cleantech Chemistry: Cool Planet Wraps Up $60 Million Funding Round Fine Line: ChemOutsourcing: Day Two and ChemOutsourcing: Day One Newscripts: XPRIZE Competition Poses Ocean Acidity Challenge and Amusing News Aliquots and From Unknown Bacteria To Biotechnology Breakthrough The Safety Zone: Nanotechnology: Small science can come with big safety risks The Watch Glass: Tiny Solder and Gas Masks for Three Year Olds and Women in Cleveland's Chemistry Labs during WWII and The Orion Nebula and Detector Dogs for Forensic...

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