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At Monday's hearing on the Freedom Industries chemical spill at the Kanawha County Courthouse, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito introduced new legislation aimed at preventing any future water emergencies. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing included testimony by the President of West Virginia American Water, and also the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Congresswoman Capito's legislation would require oversight and inspection of chemical storage facilities and above ground storage tanks. If you missed the hearing you can still add your comments. The public comment period remains open for 30 days for anyone who wants to go on the record with thoughts.
A young girl on a school bus saw the body of 35-year old Tonya Atkinson Monday, and a short time later Dunbar Police made an arrest for Atkinson's murder. Bobby Kanode Jr. was taken into custody shortly after the body was found in the Kanawha River, and he's been charged with murder and is being held without bond. The two were reportedly in a relationship, and got into a fight late last week. Kanode's preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 19.
Protesters over the weekend took their frustrations to West Virginia American Water. More than a hundred and fifty people held a protest at the capitol, then marched through Charleston and then to the offices of West Virginia Amercian Water. Demonstrators were from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, the NAACP, and local churches, among others. The event was billed as “My Clean H2O Matters!” and the protestors asked that West Virginia American Water Company be held responsible for costs associated with the water emergency. The company released a statement saying, "Although West Virginia American Water is not responsible for the spill, we do have a process in place to receive information from customers who want to inform us of losses resulting from Freedom Industries' chemical spill." And the information collection process continues.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced a grant totaling $3.1 million to help West Virginia turn around some of its lowest-achieving schools. The so-called school improvement grants are aimed at assisting school districts that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds, as well as a commitment to raise student achievement. Duncan said the funding represents a "tremendous opportunity" for persistently struggling schools to provide a better education for their students. West Virginia is among six states and the District of Columbia that are receiving grants. The grants total $38 million.
Appalachian Power said small business owners are the target of a scam seeking to extort cash. The power company said reports of the scam are coming from its West Virginia customers, but it said its customers in Virginia and Tennessee are also likely to be targeted. Customers are getting calls from someone who says represents the company and claims that check or credit card payments are no longer being accepted. Appalachian Power says that is not the case. The caller told customers that their payments have been returned, they owe $1,000 and that it must be paid immediately with a prepaid credit card. Appalachian Power says it never demands payment that way.
Memorial services have been scheduled for a Clendenin volunteer firefighter who died in an accident Saturday night. Nathan Smith was reportedly on his way home when the accident happened. He was a volunteer firefighter in Clendenin, and had also worked at the Chesapeake Police Department, the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Service, and the Air National Guard. Visitation is coming up tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. His funeral will be at the same location Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.
West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre spoke Thursday afternoon before the state HouseHealth and Resources Committee and said water credits to residents and businesses will start today. Homes can be credited for 1000 gallons of water and commerical users will get 2000 gallon credits, amounting to about ten and twenty dollars. Despite the licorice smell, tests came back Thursday showing that there was no MCHM in the water, and the odor is likely to phase itself out in another few days.
The United Way of Central West Virginia says it's still distributing emergency funds. The fund has grown with donations and has reached six figures, and that money is going to qualifying West Virginians in need. WCHS TV reports the partner agency locations will continue to accept applications for assistance at least until Feb. 21 or until the fund is extinguished. Workers may qualify for up to $200 depending on work hours and lost wages. To see if you qualify just go to the United Way website, which is www.unitedwaycwv.org.
Three more Kanawha County schools closed early Thursday over water concerns. Riverside High School and Midland Trail Elementary School closed Wednesday after students and staff reported symptoms after flushing the system. And Thursday, J.E. Robins Elementary and Watts Elementary School on Charleston's West Side closed early, along with Overbrook Elementary School in South Hills. The Centers for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency held a news conference this week saying the water was appropriate to use.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has suspended a former Randolph County prosecutor's law license for three years for misconduct during his tenure in office. A court order says Richard T. Busch violated professional rules of conduct in two criminal cases between January 2009 and his resignation on Dec. 5, 2011. The court says Busch ignored the defense's request for documents in one case and obstructed the defense's access to an alleged victim's recorded statements in the other case. He also gave false statements about evidence. Busch had suggested a lesser suspension. He contended that his conduct was negligible but not intentional.