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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  • 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 Unctuous

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

      • Uncle Fester

        Do you really think it would harm him?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      Demonstrably false and indefensible generalization.

  • 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

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Larry

      It is deadly at very large doses.

    • GW

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

      • GW

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

  • 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?

    • Larry

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

    • 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.

  • Cigarman

    Moved offsite to conceal evidence more likely.

  • Walsingham

    Bottled water just became the new .22 ammunition.

  • Earl Ray

    This will never happen at my cracker plant.