CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Thousands of West Virginians still cannot use the water that’s running into their homes.

A do not use water notice continued Friday morning for customers of West Virginia American Water Company in nine counties: Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson, Clay, Logan and Roane along with Culloden in Cabell County.

A State of Emergency was also in effect in those areas.

See a map of the affected area here.

“Do not drink it (the water), do not cook with it, do not wash clothes in it, do not take a bath in it,” said Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Thursday evening.  “We do not know, at this time, exactly how long this ban will be….please do not use the water with the exception of flushing your commodes.”

As many as 100,000 WVAW customers, including hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and homes, fell under the notice as company officials worked to determine if, in fact, the water was contaminated.

Late Thursday night, Governor Tomblin said the White House had approved his request for a federal emergency declaration to help in affected areas following an incident that started as a chemical spill that was located Thursday morning along the Elk River in Charleston.

Reports indicated the chemical involved was 4-methylcyclohexane methane, a foaming agent used in coal preparation, that leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries.

Those with Freedom Industries were working on Thursday afternoon to determine exactly how much of the chemical spilled into the Elk River near the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.  Company officials said the tank where the leak occurred was moved off site for measurements.

Photo by Shauna Johnson

Jeff McIntyre, (from left) West Virginia American Water Company president, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, state Adjutant General James Hoyer and Jimmy Gianato, state Homeland Security Secretary, briefed media members about the do not use water notice on Thursday night.

Originally, WVAW officials had said they did not think the incident would affect water quality.  That was revised late in the day Thursday and WVAW President Jeff McIntyre said the do not use order, which was issued after 5 p.m., was out of an “abundance of caution.”

“I don’t know that the water is not safe.  A do not use is being issued at this time because we do not know,” said McIntyre.  “People need to heed it, we don’t do this lightly, tell customers not to use the water.”

State officials said it was possible the chemical could cause problems for some people.  “Generally, the chemical itself is not toxic, but it is harmful if it’s swallowed,” said Tom Aluise, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson.

Water quality specialists were monitoring both raw and finished water on Thursday evening and crews were conducting flushing throughout WVAW’s distribution system.  There were no indications of how long the do not use water notice would be in effect.

State and county officials were working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies, including the West Virginia National Guard, to set up emergency water supply locations.  Distribution sites were expected to be up and running by Friday.

Residents originally reported a strange odor in Charleston, one described as licorice, on Thursday morning.

“They called the Sissonville Fire Department out because people could smell it up on I-77.  They also called the Charleston Fire Department because they could smell it along Garrison Avenue,” said C.W. Sigman, Kanawha County fire coordinator.

“I was familiar with the product because I’ve dealt with it before and, as soon as I smelled it, I said, ‘I know what this is.'”

Aside from Culloden, all other WVAW customers in Cabell County were not affected because those Cabell County customers receive their water from the Huntington Water Treatment Plant.

Customers served by the City of Hurricane, St. Albans, Putnam Public Service District , Montgomery, Cedar Grove-East Bank were also not affected.

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  • Jason412

    Don't worry everybody. It's just WV's arch-nemesis the EPA. From what I've learned here Obummer's EPA is just trying to destroy WV's coal industry. If I had to speculate, I'd say Obama himself leaked this into the water, you know, to hurt the coal industry.

    I'm sure it's safe.

    (that is sarcasm, but I wanted to say it before someone else did)

    Seems to me they shouldn't of reported that it was non-toxic at 4pm. Seems a huge leap to go from "non-toxic, yeah it's safe it just smells bad" at 4pm, now a state of emergency at 8pm.

    Stop the Stupidity - As someone who is the only male adult in my family who hasn't worked in the coal mines, most miners aren't exactly a picture of perfect health and they'd (at least the ones I know) would be the first to tell you that.

    • Scott

      Don't know what your going to be able to blame everything on when the coals gone.Since this a chemical factory in Charleston no mines or prep plants in sight.

      • Uncle Unctuous

        Not a factory - a storage facility They do not produce chemicals. They store. This particular agent, as has been widely reported (including in this very article) is used in processing coal.

  • JM

    Reason #827 we need agencies like the EPA

    • Shadow

      EPA is a self-eating watermelon and thus a scourge upon the USA.

      • Uncle Unctuous

        That sounds horrible -- a watermelon that eats itself, leaving no juicy, sweet goodness for consumers.

        But once it eats itself, it's gone forever. So I would think EPA opponents would love for the agency to be a self eating watermelon. I don't get this analogy at all.

    • Jerry D

      DEP can handle it just fine.... EPA = waste of tax paying Americans $$$$.

      • Concerned

        You mean the same state agency that's understaffed, overworked, and underfunded? The same one the public is supposed to rely on, and another the gov is cutting the budget of? Call me a tree hugger if you like, but stories like this one is the reason why the fracking industries or any major industry that uses or produces chemicals does not inspire confidence when they say its safe.

  • In da stickes

    Down in the valley where nobody goes, Freedom Industries did something that really blows. Don't drink the water they said or you might wake up in the morning deader than dead. Not safe to bathe, might stain the tub. Surely you're not planning to use it in your grub. Bars closed, senior centers too. CAMC using bottled water rather than West Virginia American goo. Putnam, Kanawha, Logan, Lincoln and Jackson too. Culloden wasn't spared old soul. Who'd a thunk the only safe water would be from the Coal? Jesco White cannot help with his cloggerel so I humbly submit my doggerel.

    • Flaghorse

      very clever....I am wondering about the livestock??

  • stop the stupidity

    I understand the concerns with our drinking water but the media and public officials are completely going overboard. This chemical comes in contact with thousand of workers in coal preparations plants daily, I've had it on me personally as well. Although I wouldn't want to drink it I don't think there's any harm whatsoever in bathing with it or anything like that. I'd imagine were exposed to much more harmful chemicals, sewer, etc in our city water that doesn't get reported correctly than you will with this.

    • Cigarman

      Have all you want. I bet you smoke and don't think it causes cancer.

      • Mike


  • Canasialo Canasi

    Freedom Industries is lying. I spoke with Steve on the phone, and he stated the chemical is safe and is not volatile. He's clearly wrong on both counts. I believe this link will take you to a website with the MSDS Safety Sheet:

    Why is the company allowed to store a chemical this close to the water intake area?

    Freedom Industries, Inc. P.O. Box 713, Charleston, WV 25323 - Phone (304) 720-8065 - FAX (304) 343-0028

    • Uncle SAM

      Steve? You spoke with Steve? I spoke with Steve as well and he told me he just started there yesterday

      • Joe

        That is true Uncle Sam, but Steve did stay at a Holiday Inn Express the night before.

    • stop the stupidity

      The MSDS in the link above is for methylcyclohexane and not 4-methylcyclohexane methane. That doesn't tell us much.

    • Charleston,WV

      Awesome advice! Thanks!

    • WSC

      Read page 2 of MSDS sheets. For those of you who are not familiar with msds ( material safety data sheet), these are used when hauling, transporting, or storing materials to show the characteristics and dangers involved with most all chemicals. First responders use these along with plaqarting symbols to determine how to respond to and handle chemical related accidents

  • Mike M

    FEMA has been called in

    • Uncle SAM

      Now, you belong to Me!!! Come to me for your drinking water and bring with you all your guns and ammo to be turned in.

      • Uncle Unctuous

        Said the brigadier general of the tinfoil hat brigade.

  • Jim N Charleston

    I would rather be sick and smell like licorice than be stuck around people with B.O. I will shower.

    • realitycheck

      yeah, who cares about exposing yourself to toxic chemicals - at least you won't have BO!

    • Cigarman

      Stay away from me licorice stinks

  • RetiredAlliedSignal

    Good thing it wasn't "Cyclohexanol", or the trade name "Nadol". This chem contains distilled phenol. Crude phenol is deadly. I believe something like 8oz. on the exposed flesh is fatal.

  • Billy



    Today, a chemical spill occurred along the Elk River, causing contamination in the Kanawha Valley water system. The entire Kanawha Valley water system is affected, including parts of Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Jackson, Lincoln and Clay counties. There is a probability that your water is contaminated. Testing has not occurred to confirm or deny the presence of contamination in your water.


    Due to the nature of the contamination, it is not safe to use the water for any purpose. Alternative sources of water should be used for all purposes. Bottled water or water from another, safe source should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, bathing, food and baby formula preparation and all other purposes until further notice.

    Public Health Notice by them and reports of water selling out

    • Flaghorse

      So make sure you tell the sheep and cattle this as well!!

  • leroy j gibbs

    This will turn out disasterous. Lots of people. No drinking water. Hospitals schools elderly with out drinking water. ? Not a good thing

  • david smith

    So it isn't toxic but it's so deadly we shouldn't even wash in it?

    I wish these guys didn't go ballistic over things like this. Could they give us more information? What ppm is in the water supply? Or haven't they tested it yet? What's the LD-50 in comparison.

  • Larry

    The solution to pollution is dilution!

    • Dr. Sarcasm

      Worked for Fukushima!

  • Uncle SAM

    First The Tomahawks now this!! Denny, Denny, Denny.....

  • Bo

    This is an excellent opportunity to remind everyone why it is so imperative to keep a supply of bottled water on hand. Let us all hope for a positive outcome.

  • Cigarman

    Just absolutely careless of Freedom Industries.

    • Rodney Hytonen

      Typical of the way business sees West Virginians, but not nearly as permanent as the effects of FRACKING and gas drilling!.

      WHEN do we stop signing leases, accepting their pittances and corrupting of our courts and government, and RISE UP again to END it?

      • rose

        NEVER.... since it was that way from the beginning in 1863.

        The moneymen came in, took over the natural resources, left with the millions, and only a few West Virginians got some crumbs.

        • susanf1218

          Some things haven't changed. Take all the resources out of the state and leave behind nothing but destruction, pollution, damage and desolation behind. Sounds about right.

      • WV Redneck

        Omg, I can't believe you made the leap to fracking. Ok, I'll bite. Back up your statement with facts. List all the "permanent effects of fracking and gas drilling" since you are an expert in the field.

        • Uncle Unctuous

          The problems with fracking include a relative dearth of facts, and the aversion of frackophiles to the proliferation of facts.

        • WV Redneck

          On second thought, don't. Your just a TROLL anyway. This isn't the place or time for your idiocy.

          • Jason412

            This is a story released a few days ago

            "— West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said."


            Also, one site is reporting this "4-methylcyclohexane " is used in fracking. It's not a reliable enough source for me to link, but if any news agency reports that I'll post it.

          • The bookman

            Thanks redneck...believe me...the last thing we want is Hytonen on a roll!