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300 Thousands warned not to drink water after W. Va. spill

West Virginia National Guard troops distributed bottled water trucked in from Maryland Friday after a chemical spill in the Elk River in Charleston contaminated the public water supply for as many as 300,000 people in nine counties.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin urged water customers in the southwest counties of Kanawha, Putnam, Jackson, Clay, Lincoln, Logan, Roane and Boone counties, as well as customers in the area of Culloden in Cabell County, to stop using water for everything but flushing toilets and fighting fires.

West Virginia residents must avoid drinking water.
“Do not drink it. Do not cook with it. Do not wash clothes in it. Do not take a bath in it,” Tomblin warned. “For safety, we would ask everyone — this includes restaurants, hospitals, any institutions out there — please do not use any tap water if you’re a customer of West Virginia American Water.”

The spill prompted President Obama to issue a state of emergency for the state.

It’s unclear how much of the chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), was spilled and how much of a hazard it poses. Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney for West Virginia, said his office and other agencies will investigate the cause of the spill.

State health officials say MCHM could be potentially harmful if swallowed and could cause skin and eye irritation. ButJeff McIntyre, president of the American Water Company, says so far, water tests to determine how much MCHM is in the water have been inconclusive.

“There is material present. We don’t know how to quantify it,” McIntyre said. A National Guard mobile lab will conduct sampling, he said.

The spill occurred Thursday when MCHM, used to wash coal of impurities, leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries and overran a containment area in the capital. Shortly afterward the chemical poured into the Elk River and a nearby treatment plant as the smell enveloped parts of Charleston.



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