West Virginia Water Crisis Throws Spotlight on Water Safety
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West Virginia Water Crisis Throws Spotlight on Water Safety

Charleston, the capital city of West Virginia, has been virtually shut down because of a chemical leak in the water supply. As the chemical is being flushed from the system, the scariest thing isn't what’s known about the danger to public health but what’s not known. Are regulators doing their best to find out? Also, Egyptians go to the polls to vote on a military-backed constitution, and a court ruling may lead to higher costs for Google, Facebook, Netflix or other services. Could the FCC help consumers without stirring up a political firestorm?

Banner image: Water is distributed to residents at the South Charleston Community Center in Charleston, January 10, 2014. President Obama has issued an emergency declaration for the state of West Virginia, ordering federal aid in the aftermath of a chemical spill that has left up to 300,000 people without tap water. Photo: Lisa Hechesky/Reuters

Making News

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For the third time in three years, more than 52 million Egyptian voters have been asked to approve a new constitution. Polling stations are closing as we go on the air. David Kirkpatrick is Cairo Bureau Chief for the New York Times.

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Main Topic

Is West Virginia's Water Crisis a Wake-up Call? ()

Last Thursday, water from West Virginia's Elk River began to smell like licorice. The trouble was traced to a leak of methylcyclohexylmethanol from a one-inch hole in a storage tank just upstream from the plant treating water for 300,000 people, including those living in Charleston, the capital city. For five days, West Virginians were told, “don't drink the water — cook with it, shower, bathe the baby or wash your clothes." Levels of MCHM are finally being reduced, but nobody yet knows how much danger it's posing to public health. One of thousands of chemicals never tested for safety, MCHM is used in the coal industry, the driver of West Virginia's economy. The industry and its supporters attack EPA regulations as a “war against coal." Could regulatory enforcement have prevented the spill?

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Today's Talking Point

Federal Court Strikes Down 'Net Neutrality' ()

Yesterday, a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commissions' rules on "net neutrality," the requirement that telecoms charge the same rate to all content providers. Is there a way back for the FCC without an all-out battle in Congress? Verizon, the telecom that sued the FCC, claims yesterday's decision won't change consumers' ability to access the Internet as they do now. So why did it go to court in the first place? Brendon Sasso reports on technology for the National Journal.

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