300,000 in West Virginia without water after chemical spill

300,000 people in West Virginia were warned not to use tap water after a chemical leak. Credit: Flickr
300,000 people in West Virginia were warned not to use tap water after a chemical leak.
Credit: Flickr

President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for the state of West Virginia on Friday, ordering federal aid in the aftermath of a chemical spill that has left up to 300,000 people without tap water, closed schools and businesses.

The spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry, occurred Thursday on the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia’s capital and largest city, upriver from the eastern U.S. state’s largest water treatment plant.


Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties and health officials have advised residents to use tap water only for flushing toilets and fighting fires.

“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Gov. Tomblin said in a statement. “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes and schools.”

Emergency workers were transporting water to distribution centers in the affected counties, according to the Charleston Gazette.

Local media showed pictures of residents lining up at stores for bottled water and shelves emptied of their supplies.

At a Kroger supermarket in Kanawha City, a Charleston police officer stood guard as shoppers stocked up on bottled water.

“People have been grabbing it like crazy,” Kerstin Halstead told the newspaper as she loaded two cases of water into her SUV. “Some people were getting – well, they could have shared more.”

POTENTIALLY HARMFUL

Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston and the Putnam County Health Departments, ordered the closure of all restaurants and schools receiving water from the West Virginia American Water company.

Schools would be shut on Friday across many counties, including Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Pocahontas and Putnam, the West Virginia Department of Education said on its website.

Tomblin’s spokeswoman, Amy Shuler Goodwin, said she did not know when the ban would be lifted.

The spill originated with Freedom Industries, a Charleston company, according to Laura Jordan, external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water.

It occurred above the intake of the Kanawha Valley water treatment plant in Charleston, which serves 100,000 homes and businesses, or 250,000 to 300,000 people, Jordan said.

“It could be potentially harmful if swallowed and could potentially cause skin and eye irritation,” Jordan said.

The West Virginia Department of Environment Protection got a report of a strange odor on Thursday morning and visited the Freedom Industries site, where they found a leaking storage unit, Shuler Goodwin said.

Jordan said the water company and state environmental officials were conducting tests on the water.

The company is working with state and federal authorities to get residents access to bottled water, and water distribution sites will be announced through local media, Jordan said.

A representative for Freedom Industries did not respond to requests for comment.

The company says on its website it is a producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…