Forum features leaders from West Virginia chemical spill

October 22, 2014  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Scientific and community leaders will speak at Purdue University on Nov. 12 during a forum on the Freedom Industries chemical spill earlier this year in Charleston, West Virginia.

The forum is titled “Community, Communications, and Science: Lessons Learned from the Freedom Industries Chemical Spill, Charleston, West Virginia.“

In January, more than 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals leaked into the Elk River and contaminated the water supply for a nine-county area. More than 300,000 people were denied access to tap water for bathing, cooking and drinking.

 The disaster underscored critical interrelationships between public health, water infrastructure, environment and industry, said Andrew Whelton, an assistant professor from Purdue's Lyles School of Civil Engineering and Division of Environmental and Ecological Engineering.

The forum will feature several speakers who have been involved in the incident response and recovery and who also have expertise in medicine, science, engineering and advocacy. They include Rahul Gupta, health officer and executive director of Kanawha-Charleston Health Department; Maya Nye, president of People Concerned about Chemical Safety; Rob Goodwin of West Virginia Clean Water Hub; Krista Bryson, a doctoral student at Ohio State University; and Whelton.

The speakers will discuss disaster planning, response, and recovery issues relevant to the Purdue community, state of Indiana and the nation, said Whelton, who organized the forum and led a research team that responded to the affected area shortly after the spill. 

“Water is critical to life, and being denied that resource on a large scale threatened the viability of businesses, industry and public health in West Virginia,” he said.

The forum is free and open to the public and will be held from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in Stewart Center, Room 218 AB. A reception will be held from 2:30-3:30 p.m. so the audience can interact with the speakers. The event is co-sponsored by the Purdue Water Community, Center for the Environment, and College of Engineering.

Whelton’s team has funding from the National Science Foundation to continue its ongoing research in West Virginia and more broadly on water infrastructure disaster planning, response, and recovery. 

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu 

Source: Andrew J. Whelton, 540-230-6069, awhelton@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Biographies of the speakers are available from Emil Venere, Purdue News Service, at 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

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