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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  • Pure Water Warrior

    The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), and the American Red Cross published a document titled “Food and Water in an Emergency“; it recommends only three ways to purify water during an emergency – boiling, chemical disinfection and distillation.

    In fact, the CDC published a document titled “Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use“, and found distillation systems to be one of the most effective methods of drinking water treatment.

    Steam distillation is the only purification method that will consistently provide 99.9% pure water.

  • Michealangelo

    How the hell does this idiot from DEP get quoted as saying "“Generally, the chemical itself is not toxic, but it is harmful if it’s swallowed,” said Tom Aluise, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson. "

    Perhaps this DEP spokesperson has been drinking too much 4-methylcyclohexane methane. ........ It's friggin toxic! Not immediately lethal unless you drink this crap but it just plain IS TOXIC, by definition. WTF?!

    Here's some real clear info from an excerpt of an MSDS (material safety data sheet). People can be exposed to this chemical by:
    -- Inhalation
    -- Ingestion
    -- Skin and/or eye contact
    Symptoms of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol include:
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Dizziness
    • Headaches (ranging in severity)
    • Diarrhea
    • Reddened skin
    • Itching
    • Rashes

  • Mark

    The failure to make a quick disclosure and the failure to provide bottled water Thursday night is inexcusable. Kent Carper loves to posture in front of the cameras and microphones. He is a complete failure. Ditto for Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores.

  • CAT

    I really wander why WVAW kept pumping the water when they knew early Thursday morning that there was a problem. Yes, it would have been inconvenient for the citizens and businesses but it would not have been as bad as what has happened if they had just not continued to pump till they knew what was happening. They should share in the blame. Then not making the general public know until hours later is unforgivable.

    Where are the lost wages for all the people who have to give up four to five or possibly more days of pay. As always it is the middle class low income person that loses.

    Then comes the question they never address, if they have no studies on the human affects of this chemical has on humans then how many years and how many deaths before anyone will admit the hazards. Authorities keep saying one part per million is the standard based on a chemical they don't even know the real long term affects or how it affects humans.

    Then these great leaders want us to trust them and I ask why?
    None of these authorities the last time I checked do not hold any credentials to make them an authority on this problem.

    We all need to prepare ourselves as the legislature, county commission and/ or the great mayor will pass some new tax or increase some fee to pay for all the expenses and pass on an award to WVAW for all they did to correct the problem...ha..ha..really not funny....really sad.

  • Flaghorse

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

  • Flaghorse

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

  • susanf1218

    You ask a question that is entirely too logical and sensible! Therefore, it can't or won't be answered.

  • susanf1218

    Flouride in the amts. added to municipal water supplies is NOT harmful and is in fact an important mineral for dental health. Calm down and stop w/the anti-fluoride hysteria.

  • CincinnaTEA

    Leave the out-of-state Job Creator alone.

    In the spirit of free enterprise, I have several "Friends of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methane" license plates in stock, ready to hang on our trucks (it'll fit clean cross the brush guard, boys!).

    Gonna be an all-day job though to paint it across the Civic Center floor.

  • 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.

  • Brian

    why does nobody show any concern over the chlorine and flouride chemicals put in our water on a daily basis. Has anyone ever researched the side effects of these chemicals?

  • susanf1218

    AND are expected to be at their desks and offices slaving away today for the pitiful salaries they receive. Never mind that they can't get a drink of water, make coffee, or wash their hands! But dam the torpedoes, DHHR MUST stay open to "serve" all the poor, underprivileged, socially dependent citizens of WV who, by God, DESERVE their Food Stamps and welfare checks and medical cards!

  • Uncle Fester

    Do you really think it would harm him?

  • Uncle Unctuous

    The correct phrase is "in your case," unless you are using "case" to mean, say, a briefcase or law suit. Which would not make sense.


  • 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.

  • hill billy how many times must we go thru this

  • hill billy

    don't eat the fish

  • hill billy

    run it through the sewer plant then it will be safe to drink

  • hill billy

    just bring the bad water to frametown and put it in the injection wells there is no clean water left in wv

  • hill billy

    if its so safe you drink it

  • 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.

  • Dave, just Dave.

    Why are chemicals allowed to be stored anywhere near a public drinking water source?

  • HOSA


  • Shadow

    For your case, try Hemlock.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Better than Freedom Industries and your hunches looking out for me. As of this hour, the water co. has heard nothing from Freedom Industries, and Freedom Industries took no action to report the leak. There is no method to test for this chemical in water. The water co. says that treated water smells of the chemical, so water treatment systems are not removing it. They have no timetable for restoration of service. So, three cheers for the private sector, right Sport?

  • Jamie36

    I understand these types of plants need water to operate much of their processes, however, what I don't understand is why the chemical storage units are close enough to the river that it could leak into the water? Things that make you go . . . hmmmmmmmm.

  • 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.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Better we should all shut up and have a drink of water.

  • Frank / Moundsville

    When all the smoke clears (or the water flows so to speak), this whole event will look like a State of WV induced panic over a hugely diluted chemical in the water system. My hunch is there was no threat to public safety at all and too much over caution...i.e. your government looking out for you.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Mah mistake. Ah thought - Ah say Ah thought - it was sufficient tuh keep mah feathers numbahed fah just such an emergency.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Baseless generalization. I paid regular price for water at two different stores in the last 12 hours.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Demonstrably false and indefensible generalization.

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Uncle SAM volunteers to be our official tap water tester. Drink up, SAM!

  • Uncle Unctuous

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

  • Uncle Unctuous

    Said the brigadier general of the tinfoil hat brigade.

  • Disgusted

    What I think is sad is the fact that stores in the areas affected are raising the cost of water to make a profit. They should be ashamed of themselves!!!

  • Haz Mat Tech

    That's because there is none - as stated previously, this chemical is not overtly toxic in its purest form, let alone when diluted in a water supply.

  • Mike


  • old ben

  • wvtd

    the best thing to do is to always be prepared and have water on hand for emergency's like this. we have seen how fema works and it is a agency that can not be counted on to be of any help so watch out for yourself and your neighbor. be a prepared. get a rain water container, filter and have water in gallon jugs or 5 gallon water cooler refill jugs on hand all of the time.

  • griff

    the public has absolutely no idea what is in their water. now that there has been a leak & nobody knows how much leaked everybody is going nuts. The public water systems should have never been allowed to close peoples private wells when public water came thru.

  • Shadow

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

  • realitycheck

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

  • Shadow

    It is difficult to start a business on Welfare Money unless it is Pot or Meth!

  • Shadow

    Does anyone know the critical parts per million criteria for this chemical? I could find no scientific data in the article or notes and that is the important number.

  • BAC

    Do you all even realize how DILUTED this stuff is after it got into the water system? In all likelihood it is harmless, but "out of an abundance of caution" they issued a Do Not Use alert. Regarding the company that caused the accident, it will undoubtedly be bankrupt soon, due to the inevitable class action law suit. Believe me, the chemical plants in the Kanawha Valley have caused far, far more health problems than this by polluting our air. Much higher rate of thyroid disease and cancer in the Valley as result of those plants.

  • Larry

    Great points.

  • 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.

  • Haz Mat Tech

    I can appreciate that people are attempting to learn more about what is going on. But what I see from this post and the media is a lot of disinformation and misiinformation in an effort to be "on top" of what is going on.

    The name of the chemical is 4-methylcyclohexane methane - NOT methylcyclohexane - there is a difference. The only way to have accurate information is to have the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the specific material(s) involved from the specific manufacturer. Even the same chemical from a different manufacturer may have different nuances, e.g. concentration(s), etc.

    Second, it is important to note - and has been seriously overlooked by the media - that MSDS/SDS sheets are for materials in their purest form(s), in this case concentrations of 98% or greater. They also require some level of training in interpreting the information on them.

    Then one must factor in that +/- 5,000 gallons of this material - which is not highly toxic in its purest form but does pose some hazard(s) - went into a river thus diluting it and then went through a carbon filtration system. I would imagine that, in worst case scenario, its concentration at the intake to WV AWC was 0.001% or less - most likely much less - and then it was sent across a distribution system that covers over 3,000 square miles (Kanawha County is 900 sq. mi.)

    Did you happen to notice the news fottage of the workers who work at Freedom Chemical and the first responders who were around the tank(s)? I did and noted that they knew what they were dealing with and were in Level A protection - basic work clothes with no visible respiratory protection. This should tell a person with common sense that this stuff isn't "methylethylkillyaquick".

    Next, the populaces failure to prepare - as has been requested repeatedly since 09/11 - to keep a three (3) day supply of water, food, and other essential supplies on hand for just such an emergency - has compounded this situation. Simply put, 95% of the population act like idiots and panic. They don't do anything to be resilient and self sufficient and then cry PANIC!!! when something like this happens. There is no excuse for the run on water, the looting at stores, etc. - other than grown adults ignoring their responsibility to themselves.

    Lastly, people have a right and there is a need to ask tough questions about how the chemical company handled this event. The EPA and DEP are necessary evils.

  • Larry

    I figured it was owned by an "out of stater".

  • Larry

    No, Ripley's water is not affected.

  • 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.

  • thornton

    Is Hoppy ok?

  • JoeP

    Freedom Industries is toast, W.Va American will get sued into the stratosphere and the trial lawyers are circling like buzzards as we speak. Welcome to wild and wonderful.

  • 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.

  • Mountain Boy

    Is Ripley included in this? I have to be there for work all next week...not too familiar with the area

  • Fred Wilson

    Looks like a guy named Gary Southern, who evidently lives in Florida is the owner of "Freedom Industries." At least according to the Secretary of State's website. The Florida address comes from another company he apparently owns.

    P O BOX 713
    CHARLESTON, WV, 25328

    KITTANIG, PA, 16201


    P O BOX 713
    CHARLESTON, WV, 25323

    There should be immediate investigations into these individuals, and the other businesses they are associated with (they appear to be all related to chemical/mining stuff).

    Wanna search for yourself?

  • Joe

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

  • Dennis

    It took way too long to notify the public, why???

  • Larry

    It is deadly at very large doses.

  • Larry

    It will decontaminate itself by the constant running of new, clean water through the pipes.

  • 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.

  • Dr. Sarcasm

    Worked for Fukushima!

  • Uncle SAM

    Did I see Kent Carper sprinting down Barlow Drive in nothing but his Super Cape screaming "Here I come to Save the DAY" ?

    He's one of my best creations...

  • Uncle SAM

    How many times do I have to tell my creations to have at least 6 days of drinking water on hand. That's 1 gal. per person per day!!

    Until we get ahead of this "managed decline" we are currently implementing we are going to have small hic-ups such as this.
    Trust me, 20 years from now a small business not appropriately securing their wares and something like this happening won't be a problem--- because there won't be any business being conducted!-- unless its by Me, Uncle Sam. And I won't tell you when I do something like this....

  • Uncle SAM

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

  • The bookman

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

  • Skeptic

    Yeah, like the 'coal industry' doesn't already screw up the environment on their own. Trust me, they don't need help doing that.

  • WV Redneck

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

  • 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.

  • Diane

    People need to think about the fact that a problem like this, whether accidental or intentional, with the public water system could happen at any time or any where. This the kind of thing all those preppers are getting ready for.

  • GW

    Dihydrogen Monoxide-2 water molecules and 1 Oxygen molecule. Another name for H20 (water).

  • GW

    Nice cut and paste from the first Google article that pops up.

  • Jason412

    "West Virginia DHHR says symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering."

    Yeah, real non-toxic. Unbelievable it was reported that way for hours. What a state.

  • Rick crank

    I have all the faith in the wvaw co.

  • Jason412

    "West Virginia DHHR says symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.

    Dr. Castellani says if you bath with contaminated water, it will irritate your skin.

    He tells it is also a respiratory irritant if you inhale it."

    "West Virginia American Water believes the material is hazardous, but is not lethal in it's current form."

    Yeah, it's sure non-toxic. Unbelievable they would say that.

  • GregG

    I wonder how many of those in the affected area are in panic mode? Yet if someone in..... let's say Doddridge County were to voice their concerns about fracking, these same people would be mocking them. Funny how karma works.

  • rick

    ....and in addition to the nasty EPA....we no good, lazy, overpaid and undereducated State employees and National Guard are working throughout the night to deliver bottled water to over 150,000 people

  • rick

    ....and in addition to the nasty EPA....we shiftless, lazy, uneducated, overpaid State employees and National Guard are trying to get water to over 150,000 people tonight.

  • 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?

  • Dr. Sarcasm

    Uh, let the water run for several minutes. If that doesnt work, disconnect all of your waterlines, disassemble them, scrub them inside and out with mild soap and warm water using a long sturdy wire and cotton cloth, let them air dry, and reassemble. Donot forget to reopen your supply lines to your fixtures and hot water tank.

  • Dr. Sarcasm

    4-methylcyclohexane methane is not the problem in the water lines. They are contaminated with Dihydrogen Monoxide. Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature protiens , disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol.

  • Cigarman

    Stay away from me licorice stinks

  • Cigarman

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

  • jm

    I would not even flush your commode. There are check valves and such in water lines. If you do not flush, you wont be bringing in any possible contaminated water into your system in the home. How would you decontaminate you home system?

  • Cigarman

    Moved offsite to conceal evidence more likely.

  • Walsingham

    Bottled water just became the new .22 ammunition.

  • Jerry D

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

  • Earl Ray

    This will never happen at my cracker plant.

  • 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.

  • JM

    Reason #827 we need agencies like the EPA

  • 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.

  • stop the stupidity

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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • Mike M

    FEMA has been called in

  • Jim N Charleston

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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.