Help those Still Affected by the West Virginia Chemical Spill Understand their Drinking Water

Andrew J. Whelton, Ph.D. | Lakia McMillan

University of South Alabama

This project ended on:
5 April 2014
A recent chemical spill into the Elk River, West Virginia contaminated the drinking water for 300,000 people and was declared a Federal disaster.

Even today, those residents have no drinking water safety data for inside their homes. We seek at least $10,000 to return to West Virginia and to cover costs.

Do not feel obligated to participate, but know any contribution is a step towards helping us help those affected. Donations are tax deductible.


Budget Overview

Task, Details, and Cost

One University graduate student will work full-time on this project while other students (graduate and undergraduate) will also contribute periodically, but it will not be their full-time responsibility. All students will be engineering or science majors like those who attended the first trip and represented environmental engineering and environmental toxicology disciplines.

1.0 Trip #2, Expanded Drinking Water Collection, a Community Meeting, and Subsequent Analysis in Charleston, WV, $34,950 ideal

$10,000 will get us back there

People: 2 faculty (free!), 1 full-time graduate student ($7,000), 4 engineering and science graduate students ($6,000)

Transport: 2 Vans ($1,700) + gas ($500) = $2,200
Lodging: 4 rooms x 6 days x $184/night (includes tax) = $4,416
Meals: 6 people x $55/day x 6 days = $1,980
3rd party testing lab: 30 metals samples x $300/each ($9,000), 30 VOC samples x $300/each ($9,000); 24 MCHM samples x $150/each ($4,500)
Supply for conducting other testing: Water pH meter probes, chemicals, equipment maintenance, GC column, SPME filber, extraction chemicals, etc ($5,150)

2.0 [STRETCH GOAL] Cost Recovery Trip #1, Drinking Water Collection January 16, 2014 and Subsequent Analysis; $16,700
Personnel: 2 faculty (worked for free), 1 full-time graduate student (worked for free), 3 helping engineering and science graduate students (worked for free)

Transport: 2 Vans ($1,700) + gas ($500) = $2,200
Lodging: 4 rooms x 6 days x $184/night (included tax) = $4,416
Meals: 6 people x $55/day x 6 days = $1,980
3rd party testing Lab: 20 metals samples x $300/each ($6,000), 30 VOC samples x $300/each ($9,000); 12 MCHM samples x $150/each ($2,250)
Supply for conducting other testing in our laboratory: Water pH meter probes, chemicals, equipment maintenance, GC column, SPME filber, extraction chemicals, etc ($5,150)

3.0 (STRETCH GOAL) Travel to Present Results to the US Drinking Water Community/Conference; $5,200

Meet the Researcher


We truly appreciate your kindness in our quest help those affected in the Charleston, West Virginia community.

I am an Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor at the University of South Alabama, born and raised in Massachusetts, and have lived in Virginia and Maryland previously. At Virginia Tech, I earned a Ph.D. Civil Engineering, M.S. Environmental Engineering, B.S. Civil Engineering and degrees. I have also worked at NIST and Virginia Tech as a Postdoc Researcher and also for a couple private environmental engineering companies and US Army. Lakia McMillian is an Environmental Toxicology graduate student, and graduate of UNLV and Fort Valley State University.

We have a strong desire to help those who continue to be affected in Charleston, WV.

To learn more about us go here. Please donate to help us return to Charleston and provide assistance.

Questions? Message me. Thank you so much for considering us.

Endorsed by


Dr. Whelton and the graduate students have carried out a critical service to the 300,000 residents affected by the...See more

Vice President for Research at the University of Southern Alabama


Our work in Charleston, West Virginia was reported on by several media outlets.

The New York Times: A Second Chemical Was Part of West Virginia’s Chemical Spill, Company Reveals. January 22, 2014.

Mobile Press Register: Disaster Scenario Realized: USA Professor, Grad Students help Victims of WVA Chemical Spill. January 22, 2014.

NBC Affiliate WPMI Local 15
: USA Students Test West VA Water. January 23, 2014.

CBS Affiliate WOWK: Independent Researchers Conduct In-Home Sampling. January 20, 2014.

Charleston The Daily Mail: Tomblin Won’t Say Tap Water is ‘Absolutely’ Safe. January 20, 2014.

The West Virginia Water Crisis Blog: West Virginia Water Crisis Crucial Information about Flushing. January 19, 2014.

The CBS Evening News: Residents Cautious After All-Clear. January 17, 2014.

Our other ongoing and prior projects have also been reported by other media. Our approach is to provide information to the public so that they can make decisions about what types of materials to use and evaluate the quality of their drinking water.

Angie's List: Does PEX Pipe Affect Drinking Water Quality? November 20, 2013.
Green Building Advisor: Testing the Effect of Plastic Pipes on Potable Water. October 5, 2013.
New Haven Independent: Where There’s Smoke, There’s ... Nano? By Gwyneth K. Shaw. June 22, 2011.
Alabama Public Television: On The Job in Alabama. May 2011.

A huge thank you to Krista Bryson, Ph.D. Candidate at Ohio State University for producing the video. You can follow her blog here.

Images of our January 2014 trip are shown below as well as a list of select related publications and presentations. Other information can be found at my website: Click on "TEAM" and then Dr. Whelton's CV.

Image. Along the bank of the Elk River, Downtown Charleston, West Virginia. (Left to Right) Graduate Students Jeff Gill, Keven Kelley, Professors Andrew Whelton and Kevin White, Graduate Students Matt Connell, and Lakia McMillian.

Image. Keven Kelley and Lakia McMillan Test Drinking Water at the First Household we Visited January 17, 2014.

Image. The Plastic Pipes on the Wall are a PEX Drinking Water Plumbing System and a Water Heater is Shown in a Basement. Our Team Collected Drinking Water Through out Several Houses including those with Crawlspaces and Basements.

Image. Drinking Water Sampling Glassware Being Ready to be Used. Labels are Necessary so that We Remember where the Water Sample Came From when We Return to the Laboratory.

Image. (Left to Right) Graduate Students Keven Kelley, Matt Connell, and Jeff Gill Unload the Van so that We can Sample Drinking Water from an Elk View Resident's House.

Below is a list of a select few of many related drinking water system emergency preparedness and response publications I have authored:

Here are a few other related actions:

Project Backers

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