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Tomblin Says State Can See "Light At End Of Tunnel" For Water Crisis

Reported: Jan. 12, 2014 5:57 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 13, 2014 4:13 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said testing results on water affected by the chemical spill in the Elk River look encouraging, but officials are not ready to lift the do-not-use advisory at this time.

“The numbers look good, and, like last night, are very encouraging,” Tomblin said. “We’re at the point where we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Major Gen. James A. Hoyer with the National Guard said, for the past 24 hours, levels of the chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, at West Virginia American Water’s Charleston treatment facility have been below the 1 part per million threshold required by the Center For Disease Control and that officials are at the point where they can start implementing procedures to flush the water system.

Col. Greg Grant with the National Guard said numbers have been trending in the direction they have been expecting, and that hundreds of samples have been taken from teams at test hydrants in the past 24 hours.

Customers in Boone, Kanawha, Lincoln, Putnam, Jackson, Clay, Logan, and Roane counties were still told not water is not to be for drinking, washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning or bathing. Water should only be used for flushing toilets or for extinguishing fires.

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said when the time comes to flush the system, it will be done in zones, with a priority placed on those with hospitals and high population density.

Four zones in Charleston and South Charleston, which include the region’s main hospitals, will be first on the list.

McIntyre said the company will be launching an interactive, Internet-based map system to alert customers to the status of their area. Customers can enter their home address and see if their home is in a green or red zone.

In addition, West Virginia American Water will be providing a 24-hour phone hotline for customers to get information.

West Virginia School Superintendent James Phares said communications will go out to county school officials on procedures on flushing water systems at school facilities.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling said the public will be notified, through a number of media outlets, of the procedures to flush their own water lines when the time comes.

Tomblin stressed customers should not flush their own lines and should wait until all test are done and the notification is given.

The water crisis began when 7,500 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol leaked from a 35,000 gallon tank at Freedom Industries facility on the Elk River north of West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant.

The spill has left nearly 300,000 without useable water and has shut down businesses and schools in the nine counties.

Bolling said 169 people have been treated and released and that 10 people have been hospitalized, but are noncritical.



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