West Virginia chemical spill triggers widespread tap water ban

 

Jan 10 (Reuters) – A chemical spill along a West Virginia river on Thursday triggered a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shutting down schools, bars and restaurants and forcing residents to line up for bottled water at stores.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties following the spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry.

The spill occurred on the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia’s capital and largest city, just upriver from the eastern U.S. state’s largest water treatment plant.

Health officials advised residents to use tap water only for flushing toilets and fighting fires, and ordered the closure of schools and restaurants across a wide area.

“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Gov. Tomblin said in a statement. “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes and schools.”[Read more]

 

Officials are not sure what threat the chemical spill poses to humans. McIntyre and Jimmy Glanato, director of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the chemical isn’t lethal. Kanawha County emergency officials said the chemical, a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, is called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. West Virginia American Water did not provide a schedule for the clean-up process, said Jennifer Sayre, a spokeswoman for the Kanawha County Manager.

McIntyre said testing is being conducted to determine the concentrations of the chemical that have gone through the water system. But he said the chemical was in a much weaker concentration when it reached the water treatment plant through the river.[Full story]