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WV Public Radio
A local research group has calculated that roughly $61 million was lost by local businesses as a result of the chemical spill into the Elk River. Enlarge image The Center For Business and Economic Research at Marshall University conducted a preliminary investigation on the impact of the January 9th chemical spill into the Elk River. They wanted to see what the loss of water and the subsequent closing of restaurants and other businesses meant to the economic climate in the 9 counties effected by the water ban. CBER estimated that for each day that the ban was fully in place $19 million was lost. CBER estimated at $19 million a day, the total money lost to be roughly $61 million for the two business days and two weekend days where businesses could not operate. The amount equals about 24 percent of the economic activity in the area. Risch said some restaurants were closed for an entire week and even upon opening the fear of whether the water is safe keeps consumers away and it keeps restaurants using bottled water. “Some of them will never be able to regain what they’ve lost from that first week or four days and some of them, their customers may come back stronger now,” Risch said. Risch said they want to delve deeper into the long-term effects with future studies that will take time. The number of affected workers according to CBER is estimated to be nearly 75,000 for each business day the ban was fully in place which represents 41 percent of area workers. “Some of them will never be able to regain what they’ve lost from that first week or four days and some of them, their customers may come back stronger now,” Risch said. According to CBER the high number is indicative of the type of businesses that were most affected, restaurants, bars and the like and the lower-wage, service-producing personnel that work at those facilities. She said it will take a while before even the businesses know what the ban will mean long-term. “I imagine they’re still calculating that and some of them may have a pretty good picture if they had a clean break as in four days with cleanly lost business and back to normal after that, but I still think there is some calculations to do for those that are buying bottled water and those that had damaged equipment which happened in a few cases and those who had to change their employment structure,” Risch said. The report says establishments in the restaurant and lodging industries are less likely to recover lost revenues and are among those that will continue to be most affected. Estimation of wages permanently lost by hourly workers will take more studies. Risch said the other thing they are interested in looking at, is how areas like the Huntington area got a boost from the ban. “Certainly we heard that in the four days Huntington and Ashland got quite a bit of business from people that felt like they needed to come here to do their shopping and dining and sometimes the legacy of these events do linger,” Risch said. The estimated $61 million lost does not include the cost of cleaning up the spill or any emergency funds spent during spill.


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