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.

  • 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.

  • 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

      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.

  • 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

  • Dave, just Dave.

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

    • susanf1218

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

  • HOSA


  • 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.

  • 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

      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?