West Virginia

Department of
Health & Human Resources

DHHR Secretary and KCHD Director Visit WV Congressional Delegation To Discuss Chemical Spill


Karen L. Bowling, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and Rahul Gupta, executive director and health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, met this week in Washington, D. C., with members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin instructed Secretary Bowling to explore every avenue available to pursue funding opportunities in relation to the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical spill. Bowling and Gupta stressed to members of the delegation the need for continued federal involvement with circumstances surrounding the spill, which affected approximately 300,000 residents in a nine-county area.

Gupta and Bowling met with Sen. Joe Manchin, the staff of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Nick Joe Rahall. They emphasized the need for continued involvement by federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Science Foundation in determining if MCMH, the main chemical involved in the spill, will have any long-term implications on the health of West Virginians.

“I was very pleased with the response we received from our congressional delegation and the partnership Dr. Gupta and I have formed to make this case for necessary funding,” Bowling said. “With the passage of Senate Bill 373, DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health is charged with exploring options for further study regarding any long-term health effects of the spill into the Elk River.”

Bowling and Gupta discussed with the congressional delegation the need to fund medical monitoring and animal studies to determine the long-term effects of MCHM on humans.

“The CDC looked at a narrow body of research in making the decision not to fund additional studies in West Virginia,” Gupta said. “Since CDC officials made their decision, there has been more research done. Secretary Bowling and I asked our congressional delegation to work with us to influence the CDC to reconsider its initial decision.” Gupta noted the CDC is implementing or has implemented monitoring programs in other states. Gupta said the National Science Foundation has denied funding to three spill-related grants the KCHD submitted in addition to the CDC’s decision to provide no funding for medical monitoring or animal studies.

Contact Information

Allison C. Adler, DHHR Director of Communications ■ (304) 558-7899 ■ allison.c.adler@wv.gov