| CHARLESTON, W. Va.
CHARLESTON, W. Va. Jan 11 Tap water in
Charleston, West Virginia, and nearby communities will remain
unsafe in the coming days, an official said on Saturday as
residents spent a third day unable to bathe, shower or drink
from the faucet due to a chemical spill tainting the Elk River.
As much as 5,000 gallons (18,927 liters) of industrial
chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or Crude MCHM, leaked
into the river on Thursday, state officials 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, authorities said.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday declared a state of
emergency for nine counties, with the affected area including
the state capital of Charleston, the state's largest city.
President Barack Obama has issued an emergency declaration.
"Our teams are out and we have employees that have worked
this (water) system that are extremely knowledgeable. (They are)
out collecting samples and looking at flushing activities at
this time," Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American
Water Co, told reporters on Saturday.
"But we are talking days" before water quality meets
federally mandated quality standards, said McIntyre, whose
company runs the state's largest water treatment plant.
The regional ban on using tap water will be lifted one area
at a time as officials work to meet the 1 part per million
requirement set by the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, McIntyre said.
Officials have said chemical levels in the water were
declining, but the spill forced schools and businesses to close
in Charleston and surrounding communities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent 75 tractor
trailers full of bottled water to distribute, with National
Guard assistance, to the over 300,000 people unable to use their
"As of Saturday, FEMA has delivered approximately 1 million
liters of water from its distribution centers in Cumberland and
Frederick, Maryland, to the area for use by the state," it said.
"FEMA will continue to deliver supplies to the state for
distribution, as needed."
FIVE ADMITTED TO HOSPITALS
Secretary Karen Bowling of the state Department of Health
and Human Resources said 73 people had gone to area emergency
rooms and five have been admitted to hospitals for observation.
Their symptoms included nausea, vomiting, dizziness,
diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin, officials said.
Water carrying the industrial chemical has an odor like
licorice or anise. Though not highly lethal, the level that
could be considered safe has not been quantified, McIntyre said.
The contamination has forced area restaurants to close.
"What we're working on is a plan to be able to allow
businesses to be able to present plans for potable water,"
said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the health officer at the
Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
"We'll review those plans and after we verify, we'll reopen
businesses on a case-by-case basis. We have begun that process
already," Gupta said.
Residents endured another day without access to running
water, and for some the wait was too long.
Russell Anderson, who lives down the street from the spill,
said he spent his Saturday stocking up on bottled water supplies
at a Rite Aid drugstore.
"It's been a real pain," he said. "I just took a shower
yesterday. I'm fighting a cold right now and I just couldn't go
without, so I took my chances."
Local officials helping out with distribution of bottled
water said they have had a hard time keeping up with demand.
"Really the biggest challenge has been running out and
having to wait 10 to 15 minutes before we can get some more,"
said Kanawha County Sheriff Deputy Jed Walls.
(Writing by Victoria Cavaliere, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)