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Officials Warn Residents Not To Use WV American Water Following Chemical Leak

Reported: Jan. 9, 2014 1:21 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 10, 2014 8:19 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison, Kallie Cart, Rick Lord) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency Thursday and residents in eight West Virginia counties were told not to use their water due to a chemical leak.

West Virginia American Water has issued a public notice for their customers to not use their water, and the notice has now expanded to eight counties.

Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties were affected. The Culloden area of Cabell County was also also affected.

"West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged NOT to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing," Tomblin said in a news release. "Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. I've been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible."

Tomblin said President Obama has approved his request for a federal emergency declaration to assist with the situation in areas affected by chemical spill.

A chemical leak was reported Thursday morning at Freedom Industries in Charleston.
The chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, is used in the coal prep-process.

That chemical leaked into the Elk River, upstream from the West Virginia American Water treatment facility. At first, the water company said the water was safe, but several hours later, they issued the “Do not use” advisory and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency.

This notice applies only to West Virginia American Water customers living in Boone, Kanawha, Lincoln, Putnam, Logan, Roane, Clay and Jackson counties.

Residents were urged not to drink, use, bathe with, cook with or do laundry with water from West Virginia American Water.

The only thing that customers could use it for is to flush the toilet or for fire protection.
Kanawha emergency officials asked citizens not to panic, and said not to rush out to local grocery stores or convenience stores to purchase water.

According to a news release from the Kanawha County Commission, emergency officials were contacting hospitals and nursing homes to assess their needs first.

Those who were ill, distressed or have medical issues that would need immediate assistance were asked to contact the Emergency Operations Center at 304-746-8828.

Methylcyclohexane Methanol is primarily used to separate coal particles. It can be a toxic chemical, but a water spokesperson advises that the chemical has been so diluted in the water and through the coal preparation process that it would be at a far less harmful level than in its concentrated form.

Health officials advised that if residents felt that they have been contaminated or feel strangely after having consumed the water, they should seek medical attention.

Symptoms to look out for include nausea, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a burning sensation.

Severe symptoms include severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.

Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling said if residents have consumed the water and are not experiencing symptoms, they most likely they will not be affected and there is no need to call poison center or go to an emergency room.

Residents can use water if they have City of St. Albans water, City of Cedar Grove water, Montgomery/Kanawha Fayette water, East Bank city water or Putnam PSD, as they are not affected.

Restaurants who receive water through West Virginia American Water were forced to close their doors.

Kanawha County health officials are asking restaurants in affected areas to cease operation.

Tomblin is working with the National Guard and FEMA to fly safe drinking water into the area. It will then be trucked to the emergency management offices in each of the affected counties and handed out.

The Putnam County PSD was urging its customers to fill bottles of water to share with family and friends that are West Virginia American water customers.

At the emergency press conference, Tomblin said he would be reaching out to all of the superintendents in the counties affected to ensure they are aware of the state of emergency.

Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam county schools will be closed Friday due to the contaminated water situation.

CAMC, Thomas, and St. Francis canceled all elective procedures scheduled for Friday due to the water advisory.

The following news release has been issued by West Virginia American Water:


On January 9, a chemical spill occurred along the Elk River, causing contamination of the Kanawha Valley water system. The entire Kanawha Valley water system is affected, including Kanawha, Boone and parts of Putnam counties.

CONDITIONS INDICATE THERE IS A HIGH PROBABILITY THAT YOUR WATER IS CONTAMINATED. TESTING HAS NOT OCCURRED TO CONFIRM OR DENY THE PRESENCE OF CONTAMINATION IN YOUR WATER.

What should I do?

DO NOT USE THE WATER.

Due to the nature of the contamination, it is not safe to use the water for any purpose. Alternative sources of water should be used for all purposes.

Bottled water or water from another, safe source should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, bathing, food and baby formula preparation and all other purposes until further notice. The current acceptable uses of tap water are toilet flushing and firefighting.

The need for this order is due to a chemical spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol along the Elk River in Charleston.

What is being done?

Water quality specialists continue to monitor both raw and finished water and crews will conduct flushing throughout the distribution system.

Will be West Virginia American Water will inform you when it is determined that the water is once again safe to use.

For more information, please contact Customer Service at 1-800-685-8660.

General guidelines on ways to lessen the health risk are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.

This notice is being sent by West Virginia American Water.





CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) -- Emergency officials are now urging residents not to use their water due to a chemical leak.

Counties included in the warning include Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties. The Culloden area of Cabell County is also affected.

Do not drink, use, bath with, cook with or do laundry with water from West Virginia American Water.

The only thing that you can use it for at this time is to flush the toilet or for fire protection.

A substance used in coal washing and preparation and that smells similar to licorice was leaking into the Elk River in Charleston on Thursday.

Clay, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam county schools will be closed Friday due to the contaminated water situation.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet says if residents have consumed the water late this afternoon and are experiencing severe symptoms to contact the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.

Symptoms to look out for include nausea, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a burning sensation.

Severe symptoms include severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.

Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling said if residents have consumed the water and are not experiencing symptoms, they most likely they will not be affected and there is no need to call poison center or go to an emergency room.

West Virginia American Water said it will inform customers when the water is safe to use.

For more information, contact customer service at 1-800-685-8660.

The EPA safe drinking water hotline has some general guidelines on ways to reduce health risks. Call 1-800-426-4791.




CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) -- Emergency officials in Kanawha County are now urging residents not to use their water due to a chemical leak.

The warning applies to people living in Boone, Kanawha, Lincoln, Putnam and Jackson counties.

Do not drink, use, bath with, cook with or do laundry with water from West Virginia American Water.

The only thing that you can use it for at this time is to flush the toilet or for fire protection.

A substance used in coal washing and preparation and that smells similar to liquorice was leaking into the Elk River in Charleston on Thursday.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has declared a state of emergency for the five counties because of the chemical spill.

Tomblin advised residents Thursday not to drink, bathe or cook in the water and to only use it for flushing.

The declaration involves the counties of Kanawha, Boone, Jackson, Lincoln and Putnam.

Officials are not sure what threat the chemical spill poses to humans.

Media outlets report the chemical leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries and overran a containment area on Thursday. The amount that spilled isn't immediately known. A chemical smell was in the air.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise said the chemical is used in the coal preparation process.

Freedom Industries did not immediately respond for comment.

The following news release has been issued by West Virginia American Water:

On January 9, a chemical spill occurred along the Elk River, causing contamination of the Kanawha Valley water system. The entire Kanawha Valley water system is affected, including Kanawha, Boone and parts of Putnam counties.

CONDITIONS INDICATE THERE IS A HIGH PROBABILITY THAT YOUR WATER IS CONTAMINATED. TESTING HAS NOT OCCURRED TO CONFIRM OR DENY THE PRESENCE OF CONTAMINATION IN YOUR WATER.

What should I do?

DO NOT USE THE WATER.

Due to the nature of the contamination, it is not safe to use the water for any purpose. Alternative sources of water should be used for all purposes.

Bottled water or water from another, safe source should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, bathing, food and baby formula preparation and all other purposes until further notice. The current acceptable uses of tap water are toilet flushing and firefighting.

The need for this order is due to a chemical spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol along the Elk River in Charleston.

What is being done?

Water quality specialists continue to monitor both raw and finished water and crews will conduct flushing throughout the distribution system.

Will be West Virginia American Water will inform you when it is determined that the water is once again safe to use.

For more information, please contact Customer Service at 1-800-685-8660.

General guidelines on ways to lessen the health risk are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.

This notice is being sent by West Virginia American Water.


The Associated Press contributed to this story




CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia American Water officials said they do not believe the substance used in coal washing that leaked into the Kanawha River poses a health risk to customers.

The company said they are closely monitoring the situation.

“Contaminants that reach the plant's intake site are removed from the water through the plant's multifaceted treatment process, which includes filtration through advanced Granular Activated Carbon filters," officials said in a statement. "While the treatment process at the Kanawha Valley plant is sufficient to remove contaminants resulting from this chemical spill, our water quality experts will continue to monitor the situation closely and remain in direct contact with the WV Department of Environmental Protection and the chemical supplier.”




CHARLESTON,W.Va. (Bob Aaron, Jeff Morris) -- A substance used in coal washing and preparation and that smells similar to liquorice is leaking into the Elk River in Charleston, and officials are monitoring the situation over concerns it could get into the intake for the West Virginia American Water treatment plant.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Agency was at the scene of the leak at Freedom Industries on Barlow Drive. Kanawha County Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman said an environmental contractor was at the scene, and several tankers were being used to try to vacuum up the material that had spilled from a tanker.

Sigman said the product -- 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol -- is not considered hazardous. The emergency response was prompted after an unusual odor was reported Thursday morning mostly in the Garrison Avenue and Elk River area near the Interstate 77/Interstate 64 split.

County emergency officials said the product safety data sheet does not indicate a toxic level for inhalation. The DEP does list an objectional level of the product, which the DEP has been able to pick up in the environment.

It was unclear how much of the product spilled, and how much the company has stored at the site. The company has approval to store up to a million pounds of the product. County emergency officials said the product initially leaked into a containment area, and then leaked into the river.

No shelter in place has been issued, but residents were advised to go indoors if they show signs of nausea or other symptoms.




CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jeff Morris, Bob Aaron, Wes Armstead) -- If you sniffed the air Thursday in the Charleston area and thought you detected an odor similar to liquorice, you weren’t imagining things.

The unusual smell was from a product called crude and apparently is originating from Freedom Industries on Barlow, Drive, Kanawha County Emergency Manger C.W. Sigman said. Sigman said the product is used in the coal prep process.

Officials said reports about the smell were mostly in the Garrison Avenue and Elk River area near the Interstate 77/Interstate 64 split.

The air quality is being monitored, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is at the plant site.

Eyewitness News has a crew at the scene. Stay tuned for updates.



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