We’re glad that FEMA is Bringing Water to Residents near the Elk River. This is a Beautiful place, and is sadly Ironic…

From Scientific America:

The chemical has a half-life (meaning half of it will have broken down into other elements in this amount of time) of roughly two weeks in water, a month in soil and, if it gets into the muck at the bottom of the river, 140 days in sediments. Microbesand the slow workings of natural chemistry help with that. Its half-life is less than a day in air, quickly broken down by sunlight.

Nonetheless, as Halden says “exposure should be avoided because the health effects are a bit uncertain. You should never be exposed to an industrial chemical unless there’s a good reason.”

Is the water safe?
The water contaminated by the spill should not be used for drinking or showering, but is fine to use for things like flushing the toilet. The idea is to avoid direct contact with the contaminated water, and to avoid ingesting it or inhaling it. “We may not have the information to know whether it’s really safe for the general population,” including children, the elderly, the sick or pregnant women, says chemist Richard Sachleben, who works in pharmaceutical research and development. Shutting down the region’s water supply was an “appropriate level of precaution,” he adds.

Is it methanol?
No. Chemical nomenclature can be confusing. “What it has in common with methanol is that they are both alcohols,” Sachleben says. MCMH (C8H16O) is a much bigger molecule than methanol (with eight carbon atoms at its center versus the one in CH3OH) and breaks down in different ways.

Can it be cleaned up?
Yes, but it might make more sense to stop the spill, contain it and then wait for nature to take its course. Other alternatives include using some kind of a boom to contain the spill in the Elk River and then pump as much of the chemical as possible out of the waterway. “The rest is going to have to wash away down the river,” Sachleben says.

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-dangerous-is-the-chemical-spilled-in-west-virginia

 

 

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