Remarks of U.S. Rep Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., before the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee
“Thank you, Chairman Cardin and thank you, Chairman Boxer and Sen. Vitter and Sen. Udall. It’s wonderful to be on a panel with my colleagues. I think it is important for you to know that in West Virginia we have always been very proud of our water, it is one of our star, stars in our quiver, and this has really rocked us.
“I live in the Kanawha Valley, this is where I represent the Kanawha Valley, and this affects my home and my family as well. Its affects restaurants like Mr. Howey in Hurricane; it affects folks who work for him, who are no longer, who are not able to work at this time, and the long-term health effects of the Jan. 9 spill I think are still under question.
“So as Sen. Rockefeller said, I think what we want is – we want people to be held accountable for what’s happened here. We want to prevent such accidents from happening again, and at the baseline we want to know that the water we’re drinking is safe.
“Many questions about the spill are still lingering. And we’re going to have a hearing on Monday in Charleston to try to help answer some of these questions and examine not just the state but of certainly most importantly the federal laws and strengthening our laws.
“One of things that really rocked me is when the CDC came in, they had an all-clear, you can drink water, and then the CDC comes back two days later and says, if you’re a pregnant woman, you probably – we recommend that you probably don’t drink the water. What kind of signal does that send to anybody, particularly in young families?
“Sen. Manchin and I then wrote a letter to the CDC asking for their testing protocols, how they were making decisions, and what involvement that might be tightened up and made better, so that if you are going to give somebody assurances that you can drink the water, that you actually have the assurance that it’s safe.
“The other thing is this slow bleed of misinformation. It comes out first that you can drink the water, maybe not, then a week later – it might have even been more than a week later – it comes out that there was not just one chemical in the water, of MCHM, there was another chemical that in the water at the same time that was leaked into the Kanawha Valley. And that does nothing for the confidence of anybody living there or any family living there that this situation is under control at all, and it’s very disheartening.
“So the company obviously did not accurately report – they didn’t report a timely fashion too. We had to wait for somebody to smell something close by before they called emergency officials and then, and only then, did the company say something’s leaking, and then it’s come out later that maybe it’s been leaking for 10 hours before anybody was actually notified as to what was going on, and it has rocked our confidence.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable that Freedom did not immediately notify and that there was not better information with our first responders. As has been said, the state legislature is moving quickly towards passing a new law, and I congratulate them and I support state-level efforts. But I think we need to continue to examine changes that we have talked about today at the federal level.
“You know, I am a mother, a grandmother, I live in the Kanawha Valley, and I understand the fear and trepidation and anger that people feel, because I feel it too. And we’ve got to get to the bottom of this where people are trusting that their tap water is safe and it won’t happen again. We have this responsibility. I congratulate the Senate committee, look forward to our House committee next week in Charleston, and I thank you for your interest in the impact of this spill.”