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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  • 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!!!

    • Uncle Unctuous

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

  • 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

    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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Uncle Unctuous

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

    • Larry

      Great points.

  • 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.

    • Uncle Unctuous

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

      • Shadow

        For your case, try Hemlock.

        • 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.


  • Mountain Boy

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

    • Larry

      No, Ripley's water is not affected.

  • 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?

    • Larry

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

      • Shadow

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

  • Dennis

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

  • 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.