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DHHR Secretary Says No Serious Health Issues Reported After Chemical Leak

Reported: Jan. 10, 2014 2:18 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 10, 2014 4:53 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling said that there have been no reports of anyone being in serious condition from a chemical spill that led to a water crisis.

Bowling said at a news conference in Charleston on Friday that a total of four to six residents were admitted to hospitals for observation, but she does not believe any of those people were in serious condition.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin provided an update regarding the state of emergency still in effect for parts of Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties following a chemical spill that prompted a do-not-use-water advisory in multiple counties.

Tomblin released the following statement:

"We encourage all individuals to determine whether their home or business is in the affected service areas. One indicator of the contaminated water is the odor of the water. We urge all residents in the affected areas to follow West Virginia American Water Company's "do not use" order until it is lifted. This includes water companies supplied by West Virginia American Water in this area. If you live in one of these areas, do not use tap water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing, or bathing. At this time, I do not know how long this will last.

"We ask that all West Virginian's check on their friends, families, and neighbors-especially those with small children and seniors living in their households-to make sure they have enough water, food, and supplies. If you-or anyone you know--experiences symptoms including: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, irritation of the eyes and skin, seek care immediately.

"Yesterday my DEP ordered the company storing the chemical ... to take immediate action and stop additional flows of the chemical into the Elk River. This discharge of pollutants is unacceptable. I spoke with the president of West Virginian American Water and the COO of American Water, the parent company. I've also spoken with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Johnson. They have pledged their full support and assistance.

"I've mobilized and deployed all appropriate government assets and resources, including our Office of Emergency Management, our experts at DEP, DHHR Bureau of Public Health along with our National Guard-who are out doing health and wellness checks across the area along with collecting, testing and monitoring the water. The federal government is also providing assistance. The President has approved my request to issue a federal emergency declaration to provide FEMA resources. County emergency offices are also working 24-7.

"Until we receive an "all-clear," we are focusing efforts on helping the most vulnerable in hospitals and nursing homes. We have asked the DHHR Bureau for Public Health, Senior Services, and WVNG to develop a long-term plan to help ensure adequate supplies of water and food is available.

"If you are low on bottled water, do not panic. Help is on the way. We are taking every measure to provide water to you. There is no shortage of bottled water. Supplies are moving into the area as we speak. We encourage all West Virginians in affected areas to contact their local emergency management office for water distribution sites.

"If you or your organization would like to donate supplies, please contact your local emergency center. If you are in the Kanawha Valley Area, we are organizing a call to action drive for needed items-including water, sanitizer, wipes, liquid baby formula, paper plates, plastic utensils, and microwavable meals. The drive will take place on the Boulevard in front of the State Capitol from 2:30 - 6:30 today. It is important to emphasize, water and supplies are available-there is not a persistent shortage of bottled water.

"We are grateful for the offers of support from private firms and charities-and our fellow West Virginians-to aid in providing relief."





CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jeff Morris) -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Friday the state is deploying all possible resources and has enlisted the federal government's help as it responds to a water crisis.

The governor said a water drive to collect various supplies would be conducted at the state Capitol at 2:30 p.m. Friday. But Tomblin added there is no shortage of bottled water and he asked state residents to contact their local emergency management agency if they need water.

A state of emergency remains in effect for Kanawha, Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan and Putnam and Roane counties, where a do-not-use-water advisory has been issued. The advisory follows a chemical leak from a company into the Elk River. West Virginia American Water issued the advisory late Thursday afternoon following the leak after water got into the company's distribution team.

"At this time, I do not know how long this will last," Tomblin said of the water advisory. "We ask all West Virginians to check on their neighbors, family members and loved ones."

Tomblin said President Obama has approved his request for an emergency declaration and to have FEMA provide assistance. He listed a number of state agencies that are assisting in the response to the crisis, including the West Virginia National Guard. He said he has asked state officials to come up with a long-term plan so that the state's most vulnerable residents are ensured to have an adequate supply of water.



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