Correct Emergency Planning Oversight

West Virginia has a Department of Homeland Security. Working with first responders, health care providers and others throughout the state, it has developed contingency plans for various threats to public safety.

But no strategy was in place to deal with tainted water threatening about 300,000 people in and near Kanawha County, it was reported this week.

Given the circumstances – a sudden spill of chemicals into the Elk River, from which water for a large area is drawn for treatment and distribution – local and state officials seem to have done remarkably well in responding to the disaster. Only a few reports of people hospitalized after consuming the water were received.

But according to a published report, neither the state nor Kanawha and Putnam County emergency officials had a strategy in place for such a situation.

That is simply amazing – and very, very worrisome. Tainted water supplies, whether as a result of an accident or a terrorist plot, should have been one of the scenarios for which state officials planned exhaustively.

A host of state and local government policies need to be re-examined in the wake of the Kanawha County water disaster. High on the priority list should be rechecking whether what ought to be considered obvious threats have been overlooked – and correcting the oversight.