Jan 14 West Virginia officials on Tuesday lifted
a ban on drinking tap water from 35,000 customers who had been
affected by a chemical spill that left the state's water supply
nearly unusable for hundreds of thousands since last week.
Residents of the Southside and Southridge areas near state
capital Charleston are now free to drink or wash with their tap
water, according to a news release by West Virginia American
Water. Downtown Charleston and nearby Kanawha City were cleared
Consumers were instructed to flush their systems before
using the water, which had been barred for use except for
toilets since the chemical discharge into the Elk River on
More than 300,000 consumers were affected after as much as
7,500 gallons (28,000 liters) of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol,
or crude MCHM, leaked into the river.
"We're getting back to normal stage by stage," U.S. Senator
Joe Manchin told MSNBC on Tuesday. "I would say by tomorrow
everything should be back up and running."
Officials said on Monday that it might be several days
before the entire system, with its hundreds of miles of pipe, is
safe to use.
The crude MCHM chemical, which is used in coal processing,
leaked into the river from a tank at a Freedom Industries site
about a mile (1.6 km) upriver from an American Water treatment
plant, the biggest in the state.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency in
nine counties, including Charleston, shutting down schools and
Freedom Industries, which makes specialty chemicals for the
cement, mining and steel industries, has apologized for the
Water tainted by crude MCHM smells faintly of licorice.
Contact with the water can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness,
diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin.
A total of 231 people had visited emergency rooms with
symptoms, and 14 had been admitted, officials said.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the U.S. attorney for the
Southern District of West Virginia are investigating the spill.
West Virginia American Water is a unit of American Water
Works Co Inc.