Study: Smell Of Chemical In West Virginia Spill Is Detectable In Low Doses

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A taxpayer-funded, independent research group says West Virginians can smell a chemical that spilled into their water even at low concentrations deemed safe to drink.

California-based researcher Michael McGuire found a panel of smell testers could detect crude MCHM at an "extraordinarily low concentration." State officials said the chemical could be smelled at 1 part per billion. McGuire's study found the smell threshold was 0.15 parts per billion.

Federal health officials said the water is safe to drink below 1 part per million, or 1,000 parts per billion. It took four to 10 days to achieve that level after the Jan. 9 spill contaminated 300,000 people's water.

The research is part of a $762,000 state project evaluating the chemical's safe level in drinking water. It includes sampling in people's homes.