West Virginia Chemical Spill: Federal Emergency Declared For 9 Counties; Water Deemed Unsafe To Drink

A federal emergency was declared early Friday morning for nine counties in West Virginia after the West Virginia American Water Company said that its water supply had become contaminated in the affected areas.

“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged NOT to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement posted to his website on Thursday night.  “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.”

The following nine counties are under the state of emergency:

·         Boone County

·         Cabell County

·         Clay County

·         Jackson County

·         Kanawha County

·         Lincoln County

·         Logan County

·         Putnam County

·         Roane County

Residents of these counties can obtain water through the counties’ emergency services offices.

A notice posted on the West Virginia American Water Company’s website on Thursday night said that a chemical spill along the Elk River led to the contamination of water in the Kanawha Valley. The utility said the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanal was spilled into the river in Charleston, W. Va.

“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,” the utility said.

The company said it will inform affected residents when the water is safe to use. The water is being monitored by water quality specialists.

“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),” the utility wrote. "You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.”

Tomblin said his request for a federal emergency declaration was approved early Friday morning by the White House.

The water company urged anyone seeking more information to contact the utility at 1-800-685-8660.

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