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Kanawha-Charleston Health Director Dr. Rahul Gupta shares preview of Elk River chemical spill survey

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From April 3-8, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, University of Charleston and other partners collaborated in conducting a community-wide survey of the impact of water contamination following the January 9 chemical spill in the Elk River.

The research, which was released in part May 8, looks at how people in Kanawha County reacted to the chemical spill.

During a preview presentation at the University of Charleston’s School of Pharmacy, Rahul Gupta, executive director and health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and the Putnam County Health Department, disclosed some of what the survey revealed. He was joined by David Latif, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical and Administrative Services at the University of Charleston’s School of Pharmacy.

Out of a database of about 6,000 samples, Gupta said about 500 “were complete responders to the 72 questions.” According to research, about 32 percent of the respondents reported a member of their household had an illness they felt was related to the chemical spill.

However, the most eye-opening indicator, Gupta said, were the statistics in relation to how community members viewed the trustworthiness of those involved in the clean up problem-solving process. American Water Company ranked high in the public’s lack of trustworthiness of their information and announcements, with local officials being the most trusted. Federal officials were the second least trusted, followed by state officials.

All the findings will be released at a presentation at the University of Charleston on May 12. The presentation begins at 5 p.m. and is open to the public.

“We’ll be presenting all the information on Monday,” Gupta said. “We encourage all interested to attend and discover how residents of Kanawha County actually responded to the Elk River chemical spill.”

According to Gupta, Monday’s presentation will provide information about all aspects of the chemical spill, including how it affected people’s confidence and when and how they first became aware of the spill.