Candidate Meetings: 37th House district

April 24, 2014 by Whitney Burdette

The Daily Mail is meeting today with Democrats and Republicans running in the state’s House 37th district.
Follow along as we learn more about the candidates and why they’re running for the House of Delegates.

CDC: symptoms ‘consistent’ with chemical health effects

April 23, 2014 by Dave Boucher

Symptoms reported by hundreds of people following the recent chemical contamination of tap water that affected 300,000 people  are “consistent” with what is known about the main chemical involved in the leak, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Bureau for Public Health.

Freedom pic“The result of these studies and the reported symptoms are exactly what was expected,” said Loretta Haddy, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

“Nothing new was found other than what we thought would be a resulting symptom as a result of MCHM.”

Although the  agencies were quick to point out the review of medical charts could not “prove” MCHM sent hundreds to the hospital seeking help, it’s the most definitive word yet from the federal agency as to a correlation between touching or inhaling the chemical resulting in negative health affects.

“There are no laboratory tests or combination of signs and symptoms that can reliably distinguish mild illness caused by exposure to MCHM from mild illness,” said a report from the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry and the state Bureau for Public Health.

“These data cannot ‘prove’ that MCHM caused the reported symptoms; however, these data are consistent with what is known about MCHM from animal studies.”

On Jan. 9 the state discovered thousands of gallons of MCHM and other chemicals leaking from a faulty storage tank owned by Freedom Industries. The chemicals seeped into the Elk River, eventually overwhelming the local water treatment plant and sending tainted water to more than 15 percent of West Virginians.

The state issued a “do not use” order for the water late Jan. 9, but it came hours after the first reports of the tell tall licorice odor association with MCHM were received. People began going to hospitals reporting of nausea, itching, skin irritation and other symptoms they were convinced came as a result of coming into contact with contaminated water.

For weeks many people in the nine-county affected area–including Kanawha-Charleston Health Department head Dr. Rahul Gupta–said it was clear the spill and subsequent contamination caused some negative health affects.

However, the CDC and the state would not say whether the chemical had any negative health affect until it completed an “epi-aid” study, or a review of medical records collected for those who went to the hospital complaining of potentially chemical-related symptoms.

In releasing the long awaited results of that review today, the CDC also emphasized most of those seeking help at the hospital were quickly treated and released.

“Symptoms associated with exposure to low levels of MCHM in this public water system appeared to be mild and resolved with no or minimal treatment, such as IV fluids after episodes of vomiting or diarrhea and/or medications to relieve nausea or itching,” the report states.

Previously the state Department of Health and Human Resources said their chemical spill-related health data showed 533 people were treated and released from the hospital while 26 were admitted with potentially related symptoms. In the report issued today though, the CDC and the bureau say only 369 of the total 584 records were included for review.

The CDC and state compared the records with “known health effects” of MCHM, data from the West Virginia Poison Center and animal studies. All of this information, including details warning of possible negative health affects from the chemical’s manufacturer, were available within days of the spill.

For 110 of 215 records not included, the emergency department records “did not record exposure to the contaminated water,” according to the report. The agencies dismissed other records because people left without seeing a doctor or the hospital determined a cause it considered more likely for the symptoms than the spill.

The report says most people who reported negative symptoms complained of nausea and said they came into contact with the chemical through bathing, showering or other skin contact. However, the analysis also shows people who experienced negative symptoms after inhaling the chemical.

The CDC’s original barometer for how much MCHM could be in the water–in addition to only accounting for an exposure of “less than 14 days, per the CDC–did not take into account potential exposure from inhalation. The material safety data sheet, a form required of every chemical maker for its products, warns of possible negative health affects from touching or breathing in vapors from the coal processing chemical.

The report again uses a line of thinking that some of the people reporting symptoms actually suffered from the flu or other mild illnesses not related to the leak.

“These symptoms are consistent with known health effects of MCHM and with data reported by West Virginia Poison Center. It was possible that the symptoms reported to be caused by exposure to MCHM could have been caused by other mild clinical illness such as colds or flu or other viral infections,” the report states.

Gupta has repeatedly said its naive to assume the mass amounts of complaints were not in some part affiliated with the massive chemical leak.

He and Professor Andy Whelton or the University of South Alabama both recently estimated roughly 100,000 people experienced some symptoms related to the spill. Most of those people did not go to the hospital though, which could make a review that only includes hospital records misleading, they argue.

The state has repeatedly said it can’t move forward with considering long-term medical monitoring until it has the results of the CDC’s epi-aid study. With these results now, the bureau must await results of its own survey results. The state contacted more than 800 local physicians to ask about people who sought treatment for symptoms they believed connected to the spill, and also conducted a survey.

The bureau doesn’t anticipate having all of the information until June.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. D-W.Va., “urged” the CDC and state to continue studying the short term and long term health affects resulting from the spill.

“After nearly four months, West Virginians still have palpable concerns and feel unsettled frustration about the safety of their water. West Virginians deserve all their questions answered, as well as comprehensive recommendations on future actions.,” Manchin said.

A CDC representative who was scheduled to take questions during today’s conference call did not participate in the media briefing on the report. A CDC spokeswoman did not immediately respond to several requests for comment.


Candidate Meetings: House 36th Republicans

April 23, 2014 by Whitney Burdette

Yesterday, the Daily Mail editorial board met with Democrats running to represent the state House of Delegates 36th district. Today, we’ll talk with Republicans.
Follow along as we learn more about the candidates and why they’re seeking public office for the first time.

Feds: Less dust allowed in coal mines

April 23, 2014 by Dave Boucher

UPDATE (noon): Everything you’d like to know about the new coal dust rule changes (from the federal government’s perspective) is available on this new web page. There’s a fact sheet, link to the new rule, comments from administrators on the changes and how they’ll be implemented moving forward.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., joined administrators at the announcement in Morgantown today. In recent years he’s renewed a push to call for regulatory changes and more benefits to help coal miners.

“Today is a truly historic day for coal miners in West Virginia and around the country,” Rockefeller said. “While this is a big step forward, it is by no means the end of our fight to eradicate this scourge of coal miners. And, just as important is our effort to provide health care and financial support to those who are already suffering. I’ll do all I can to make sure these miners and their families get the benefits they need and so rightfully deserve.”

As Taylor Kuykendall of SNL Financial reports, the National Mining Association isn’t very pleased with the new rule. In a statement from NMA head Hal Quinn, the NMA criticizes MSHA for what it considers as ignoring industry suggestions. From Quinn:

“Today’s announcement represents a lost opportunity to provide better protection for those who need it and more job security for all coal miners. We are disappointed that MSHA has chosen to ignore scientific evidence and proven solutions to address exposure to coal dust.”

Look for more updates as they become available.

UPDATE (11:30): Here’s a copy of the final 991-page rule (thanks, Ken Ward) pertaining to measures enacted to help prevent or combat black lung.

“Chronic exposure to respirable coal mine dust causes lung diseases that can lead to permanent disability and death. The final rule will greatly improve health protections for coal miners by reducing their occupational exposure to respirable coal mine dust and by lowering the risk that they will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity over their working lives.”

Read more about the rule below. The rule takes affect August 1.

ORIGINAL: In a long awaited decision, federal officials announced this morning coal mines must trim the amount of coal dust in the air.

TOM HINDMAN/DAILY MAIL A new federal rule reduces the amount of breathable coal dust allowed in mines.

A new federal rule reduces the amount of breathable coal dust allowed in mines.

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Mine and Health Safety Administration official Joe Main and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Director John Howard made the announcement today at an event in Morgantown.
“Today we advance a very basic principle: you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your life for your livelihood,” Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said, according to The Associated Press.
“But that’s been the fate of more than 76,000 miners who have died at least in part because of black lung since 1968.”
The rule adopts a portion of the proposal that called for cutting the amount of breathable coal dust concentration limits in half. Instead of cutting the allowable amount in half– from 2 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air to 1–as was proposed, the final rule instead met in the middle at 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter.
The proposed  rule also requires more testing for dust levels, immediate action when levels are too high and technology to test for dust levels in real time, according to the AP.
The announcement is part of MSHA’s campaign to end black lung.
It’s been four years since MSHA issued the proposed rule change. Displeasure from industry and study request from congress have delayed any final action on the rule since its 2010 introduction.
More West Virginia miners were diagnosed with black lung than miners in any other state from 1970 to 2009, with the problem amplifying notably in recent years.
“We probably all would have liked to move faster, but you’ve got to be careful when you’re getting to regulatory processes like this,” Main told the AP.
“Getting it right was very important.”
State and federal officials are also fighting a $900,000 funding cap placed on black lung grant applications. While the state could receive more black lung grant funding than ever, requiring two applications means more administrative work and the possibility for one of the applications to fail, some of the officials argued.
The coal dust rule announcement is a developing story. Check back for updates throughout the day.

Candidate Meetings: House 36th Democrats

April 22, 2014 by Whitney Burdette

Today, the Daily Mail Editorial Board will sit down with three incumbents and a former lawmaker vying to represent the state’s 36th House of Delegates district.
Follow along as we talk with Delegates Nancy Guthrie, Mark Hunt and Danny Wells and former delegate and state senator Larry Rowe.

Capito’s ‘big shoes’

April 18, 2014 by Dave Boucher

Simply adopting the oft-used “big shoes to fill” metaphor was not enough for Ken Reed.

It appears Ken Reed, a GOP candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, thinks Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Ronald McDonald have the same shoe size.

It appears Ken Reed, a GOP candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, thinks Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Ronald McDonald have the same shoe size.

Instead, the GOP candidate in the primary for the seat soon to be vacated by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., chose to drive the mantra home with a little help from Ronald McDonald. Or a clown.

“Shelley leaves some big shoes to fill, but Ken Reed is committed to working just as hard for West Virginia as Shelley has for the last 14 years,” reads the back of the mail piece.

Reed’s latest mail piece went out to voters in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District this week. With Capito leaving the House after 14 years to challenge for the U.S. Senate seat Sen. Jay Rockefeller is vacating, plenty of Republicans are vying to prove they’re in the same vein as Capito.

Bill Raney, head of the West Virginia Coal Association, went for the same angle when he announced the organization’s endorsement for Charlotte Lane, another GOP candidate.

“Charlotte Lane is the clear choice to fill Shelley Moore Capito’s shoes in Washington,” Raney said in late March.

When Lane announced her candidacy she said she was “in the mold” of Capito.

Other Republicans actively campaigning in the race are Alex Mooney, Ron Walters, Jr. and Steve Harrison. While they haven’t explicitly used the same terminology, expect plenty of messaging from all the campaigns in the next few weeks.

The campaigns for both Reed and Mooney have received more than $500,000–Reed loaned his campaign $525,000, with Mooney receiving most of his campaign money from contributions. The Lane and Walters campaigns have also received six figures in donations, although Walters is down to about $2,000 cash on hand while Lane has more than $200,000 ready to use.

With about a month remaining before the May 13 primary and the money still available to most of the GOP primary candidates, don’t be surprised if more sets of shoes appear in your mailbox.


Candidate Meetings: U.S. House 2nd District Democrats

April 17, 2014 by Whitney Burdette

Today, the Charleston Daily Mail editorial board will sit down with Meshea Poore and Nick Casey, the two Democrats running for U.S. House in the second district.
Follow along as we talk with the candidates and learn more about their platforms.

Manchin’s future

April 17, 2014 by Dave Boucher

An article published earlier this week on again led to discussions in the Mountain State as to whether U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would leave Washington for a chance to return to the governor’s seat in 2016.

Sen. Manchin (Labor Day 2013)

He told the beltway publication he was “absolutely” considering a run for the top spot in West Virginia. In the past he’s said he loved being governor and doesn’t like the “dysfunction” of D.C., but an absolutely is a (perhaps subtle, but important) difference.

I’ve asked his spokesman repeatedly since Tuesday for comment from the senator. Manchin declined comment to the Daily Mail. No direct comment from Manchin about the possibility of running for governor appeared in a Gazette story today either.

Here’s what his spokesman sent me Wednesday (and the Gazette, apparently):

“Senator Manchin loved being Governor of West Virginia, and has made no secret of his frustration with the partisan gridlock and dysfunction of Washington. He is fully committed to his job as Senator and fights every day to improve the lives of the people he is honored to represent. Senator Manchin is leaving all his options open for 2016, and will continue to look for the best way to bring commonsense to Washington.”

In the past the senator told me he wouldn’t make a decision about anything until after the 2014 election. He didn’t answer questions about his future plans then either.

Candidate meetings: House of Delegates 13/15 district

April 15, 2014 by Whitney Burdette

Today, the Charleston Daily Mail Editorial Board will sit down with candidates running for the House of Delegates in the 13th and 15th districts, which include parts of Mason and Putnam counties.
Follow along as we learn more about the candidates and find out what they have to offer their districts.

Meet the candidates: U.S. Senate Primary

April 14, 2014 by Dave Boucher

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and other candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate race are slated to meet today at 12:30 p.m. with the Charleston Daily Mail editorial board. Follow along with our live blog and live streaming discussion.