West Virginia Declares State Of Emergency After Coal Chemical Contaminates Drinking Water
Residents of nine counties in West Virginia have been told not to use or drink their water after a chemical used by the coal industry spilled into the Elk River on Thursday. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency as more than 100,000 customers, or 300,000 people, are without safe drinking water.
“Don’t make baby formula,” said West Virginia American Water Company president Jeff McIntyre. “Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t shower. Toilet flushing only.”
The chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), is used to wash coal of impurities and spilled from a tank at Freedom Industries into the river. While the amount of MCHM that spilled wasn’t immediately known, West Virginia American Water has been conducting water quality testing every hour. According to Laura Jordan, a spokesperson with the water company, they believe the chemical is leaking at ground level and “there is a possibility this leak has been going on for sometime before it was discovered Thursday,” WSAZ reported.
West Virginia American Water has emphasized that once contaminated by MCHM, the water cannot be treated. As a result, schools in at least five of the counties will be closed Friday and hospitals, restaurants, nursing homes and other establishments in the area are also banned from using their water as the entire system is flushed out and testing continues. As of early Friday, Freedom Industries, “a full service producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel, and cement industries,” had yet to comment on the spill.
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