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The deplorable story of how 300,000 West Virginians lost their water

Following a 7,500 gallon chemical spill that left 300,000 people without drinkable tap water for five days, West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin announced Monday that a nine-county tap water ban would begin to be lifted. The spill spurred a federal emergency declaration, 10 hospital admissions and new scrutiny on industry’s influence over state and federal policy.

To consider the fallout, Salon called up Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council and lecturer for George Washington University. Sass blasted Freedom Industries’ handling of the emergency, called West Virginia “a state that’s not interested in enforcing … state or federal regulations,” and warned that an initially promising bill in Congress could make the situation worse. A condensed version of our conversation follows.

How disturbed are you by what we’re seeing, and how significant a crisis is this?

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