West Virginia chemical spill leaves 300,000 without tap water

A chemical spill in the Elk River in West Virginia has left hundreds of thousands without clean tap water.
A chemical spill in the Elk River in West Virginia has left hundreds of thousands without clean tap water.

Up to 300,000 West Virginia residents spent a second night unable to bathe, shower or drink tap water on Saturday after a chemical spill into the Elk River near the state capital of Charleston, although chemical levels were declining.

As much as 5,000 gallons (18,927 liters) of industrial chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or Crude MCHM, leaked into the river on Thursday, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin told CNN.

He declared a state of emergency for nine counties on Friday, and President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration. The spill forced schools and businesses to close in Charleston, West Virginia’s largest city.

Tomblin said that hourly tests on the affected water supply show “the chemical level is declining”.

“But we’re just not sure exactly how long it’s going to take before it’s acceptable to lift the do-not-drink ban,” he said.

Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water Co, which runs the state’s largest water treatment plant, also said he could not say when the water would be safe to use.

“We don’t know that the water’s not safe, but I can’t say it is safe,” he told a news conference.

Water carrying this chemical has an odor like licorice or anise, McIntyre said, and though not highly lethal, the level that could be considered safe has yet to be quantified.

By Friday evening, 737 people had called the West Virginia Poison Center to report concerns or symptoms related to the spill, water company spokeswoman Elizabeth Scharman said.

Symptoms included nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin “varying from very mild to much more bothersome”, Scharman said.

The center knew of 70 people who had been seen by an emergency room doctor, though only a handful had been admitted to hospitals, she said.

The spill came from a tank belonging to Freedom Industries – a Charleston company that produces specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries – upriver from a plant run by West Virginia American Water.

STRANGE ODOR

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had received a report of a strange odor on Thursday morning and visited the site, where they found a leaking tank, a spokeswoman for Governor Tomblin said.

“The old tank has been emptied and taken away and as of right now the company is closed down,” Tomblin said.

Tomblin said that when government officials arrived at the scene, “They had had to convince them they needed to get in to take care of this problem.”

According to a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection to Freedom Industries, officials had “discovered that no spill containment measures had been initiated and that an accumulating MCHM leak pool was seeping thru a dike wall adjacent to the Elk River and a downriver oil sheen was observed.”

Freedom Industries President Gary Southern said the company was still determining how much had leaked and that the company has been working with local and federal authorities, and apologized at a media conference in Charleston.

“Our friends and our neighbors, this incident is extremely unfortunate, unanticipated and we are very, very sorry for the disruption to everybody’s daily life that this incident has caused,” Southern said.

Emergency workers and American Water distributed water to centers around the affected area. Residents formed long lines at stores and quickly depleted inventories of bottled water.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Jaime Cook of Charleston, who was buying one of the last jugs of water at a Walmart store. “There’s nowhere to buy water and everywhere seems to be sold out. This isn’t going to last two days.”

Tina May, a Charleston resident, even considered heading out of town for the weekend. “I’m not sure how long I can last without a shower. This is unbearable,” she said.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on Friday waived size and weight restrictions for trucks to expedite delivery of water, equipment and supplies.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Local

NYPD: Stroller carrying 2-year-old rolls onto Queens subway…

A 2-year-old girl in a stroller rolled onto subway tracks in Queens on Monday morning, police said.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

Movies

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a different kind of genius…

The man known worldwide for his portrayal of London's eccentric private detective Sherlock Holmes is trading his Belstaff coat for tweed this fall. Benedict Cumberbatch…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.