CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As water-safety testing continued Sunday, about 300,000 West Virginians suffered through their fourth day without potable water after a chemical leak contaminated the West Virginia American Water Company lines.

Officials tested to determine if it’s safe to lift the do-not-use order that has been in place since Thursday night. WVAWC says the ongoing testing and flushing of 100 storage tanks and 1,700 miles of lines may cause customers to experience no water or low water for a short period of time.

The state has hired an outside firm that is conducting 100 water quality tests. The testing Saturday showed that the levels of Crude MCHM that leaked from a Freedom Industries storage tank into the Elk River near the WVAWC intake valve have continued to drop.

“Now we’re down below one-part-per-million, but we need to consistently be below one-part-per-million for a 24-hour period,” West Virginia National Guard Col. Greg Grant said at Saturday night’s briefing. Another briefing is scheduled for later Sunday.

Company and state officials continued to advise residents not to use the water.

“The interagency that includes West Virginia American Water, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues sampling,” offcials said in a statement Sunday, reiterating the do-not-use order is still in effect. “Bottled and bulk water supplies are still being delivered and available at designated locations.”

Meanwhile, state officials say 1,260 people have called the poison center with questions and concerns about exposure to chemical, which is not considered toxic or hazardous. Some142 patients have been treated and released at 10 hospitals, while six people have been admitted for symptoms that could be related to the spill.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the outside testing lab should quickly turn around 100 tests Sunday now that the method has been developed.

“It is a very complicated issue. We had to basically start from ground zero in setting the protocols on how to do the testing to make sure the water was safe,” Tomblin said. “Now that those are in place, the testing is being done and we are trending in the right way. I think it’s a very positive sign for us.”

Once the all-clear is given, WVAWC will instruct customers on how to begin flushing the water from their homes. That will include turning on spigots and running the hot and cold water for several minutes. The company will offer a 1,000-gallon credit to its residential customers to cover the process.

WVAWC President Jeff McIntyre urged customers Saturday night not to begin the flushing process until word comes from the company.

“It’s wasted effort without the all-clear,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, McIntyre said even when the acceptable level is reached the process of lifting the order could be lengthy.

“Flushing beginning at the center location and moving out to the far ends of the distribution system is expected to take several days but will not be simultaneous based upon the construction of the system,” McIntyre said. “The timeline may vary on geographic location, customer demand and other factors that impact water usage and availability.”

There are more than 100 water storage tanks in the system and more than 1,700 miles of storage pipeline in the nine counties.

“We have employees that have worked this system that are extremely knowledgeable. They are out checking samples and looking at flushing activities at this time, but we are talking days,” he said.

Other information released during the two briefings Saturday included:

–Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said no decisions have been made about school on Monday. Tomblin said it’s possible only parts of counties would have schools closed because some communities are covered by other water systems.

–DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said the formation of Freedom Industries would be looked at as part of investigation.

–Gov. Tomblin said there could be some bills this legislative session dealing with above ground storage facilities “to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

–McIntyre said “he fully expects” the do-not-use order will be lifted in zones. He wouldn’t speculate on what that would look like.

–Freedom Industries, where the leak occurred, has now said it believes 7,500 gallons of the chemical leaked. The maximum amount was earlier thought to be 5,000 gallons.

–Freedom is now communicating better with the state.

–Gianato said 1.4 million liters of water had been delivered to the impacted counties by FEMA as of Saturday. More was scheduled to be delivered Sunday and Monday.

–Several restaurants in Kanawha County reopened Saturday and Sunday after bringing separate water sources on site and having a plan approved by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

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  • saint albans

    Wonder how long after the flushing of the water will it be safe to use????? We also read that the wvaw company is giving a credit for the flushing , wonder if the greater saint albans sewer department will give there sewer customers a credit because putnam psd is giving credit and saint albans psd should also, our water has been smelling nasty since the chemical leak wonder if the hot water tanks are going to have gunk caked in the bottom of them and we always get some in water everyday

  • John D Mullins

    I thank our west Virginia water company and all the officials is doing a great job. I want to say thank you for all that you do.

  • Allen Savva

    I prayer for those men and women who are working to fix this problem ,and I also pray for there family's . and the volunteers at the many fire stations , churches , and other places . and I also pray for the thousands without water . may God bless us them at this crucial time . Thank you ...

  • WV Hillbilly

    Harrisonburg, VA has a population similar to the City of Charleston itself. They have had the good foresight to have 3 independent water sources for their plant, which is actually on a hilltop. They pipe water for miles from a mountain lake near the WV line and two separate rivers. Why hasn't a city the size of Charleston, with so many threats to single water sources, not done the same? With proper monitoring and independent sources, they could have immediately shut down the Elk River intake, opened an unaffected source and reduced the down time and amount of flushing by an immense degree. Once again, West Virginia seems to half-a.. much of what is done!

  • The Boookman

    Water goood !! Chemicals baad !!!

  • HOSA


  • Jonus Grumby

    "State DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling said 73 people had gone to emergency rooms since the event began and 5 patients admitted at 2 hospitals."

    How many have visited lawyers offices?

  • Will

    I know the article says they will release instructions later so I should probably just wait, but wouldn't the flushing process in homes and businesses vary from place to place depending on how many feet of line there is between their meter and their house and how many feet of lines they have within their house? This seems like it will be a complicated thing to properly communicate to 300,000 people. And it seems like an arbitrary credit of 1000 gallons wouldn't match the differences you will see in this. It will take a lot more to flush out the lines of the 18 story buildings downtown than it will a 1200 square foot 1 bathroom house.

  • Kelly

    I think all residents that are affected should get paid $1,000 for gas, bought water, pain and suffering, not being able to work,etc!!!!

    • Jonus Grumby

      How many of them don't work anyhow?

  • Alan

    It’s interesting that you can get better, and more up-to-date, news on wvmetronews than from the evil Charleston Gazette.

  • km

    On Friday ALL state of WV employees were expected to report to their work place in the affected areas. I don't expect the situation will change Monday. There was NO potable water available at many state work sites, in violation of OSHA regulations. I don't know if the janitorial staff are allowed to clean the toilets for Monday. People can't bathe or do laundry at home before reporting to work. Well, if we all have to work again tomorrow, I hope janitorial staff will at least resupply us with toilet paper. I wonder if Governor Tomblin has been able to take a shower since Thursday evening, unlike many others?

    • susanf1218

      Report them to OSHA! You would have thought that the almighty Tomblin would have at least seen to it that bottled water was available to the employees, but I guess not. Again just demonstrates the utter comtempt he has for state employees.

  • Tom Worley

    Jeff, Just saw your post. Congrats on your job. Hook me up with your news feeds. Let me know if you get this, tom

  • Gus

    Maybe Jimmy Jeanette (homeland security director) should have been working on a plan to prevent and protect citizens from this type of event rather than wasting the state's BTOP money and steering grant money to his son.

  • Eric

    Anyone have any idea what other chemicals are only safe at or below 1 ppm? That would give us an idea of how dangerous this chemical really is.

  • April Coleman

    I think it's wrong we have to pay for the "water" we only get 1,000 gallons throw this whole thing. It is wrong that they can charge us for toxic water!!! We have no way to wash clothes, buy extra food, plates, cups, water, gas to get the water. Are they going to reimburse us?
    And how are they going to have a chemical plant right above our drinking water and not know what they have or have test for everything they had????
    Maybe if they would put rules and crack down on chemical plants who they hound the coal mines we wouldn't have had this problem in the first place. I do believe they are much more harmful to our health then the coal mines...

    • Joe

      They do have a blue million rules for chemical plants. Who was regulating this "chemical storage facility" anyways? That's the question.