Photo courtesy of West Virginia American Water Company
This is the initial zone where water system flushing began Monday afternoon in Charleston, followed by the lifting of do-not-use water order.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and West Virginia American Water Company officials announced Monday the do-not-use water order was being lifted by zones, claiming contamination from last week’s chemical leak has been contained.

The first zone to begin flushing was downtown Charleston east to the 35th Street Bridge. When flushing is finished, customers in that zone can begin to safely use the water again.

Jeff McIntyre, the president of West Virginia American Water Company, said, water-safety testing results showed the amounts of 4-methylcyclohexane methane in the water had diminished to safe levels. McIntyre said only customers in zones green-lighted for flushing should begin the 20-minute process. With more than 200,000 water customers in nine counties emerging from the do-not-use order, the system must be flushed in stages.

See ‘How to Flush’ here

State officials say Charleston area hospitals began flushing at 10:15 a.m. Monday.

Portions of Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson, Clay, Logan, Roane and Cabell counties have been impacted by contamination from Thursday’s chemical leak. People in those areas have been instructed not to consume, bathe or wash laundry with their water for more than three days.

“Things are looking right. They’re trending in the right direction,” Tomblin had said Sunday night.

“I believe that we are at a point where we can say that we see light at the end of tunnel.”

Water quality was potentially compromised Thursday when a leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methane was discovered at Freedom Industries along the Elk River in Charleston.

As water-safety testing continued, schools were scheduled to remain closed Monday in Kanawha County, Putnam County, Boone County and Lincoln County.  Culloden Elementary in Cabell County and H.E. White Elementary in Clay County were also closed.

Dr. James Phares, state superintendent of schools, said the goal was to re-open most schools by Tuesday, but that would depend on testing results. He said school workers in affected areas would spend Monday cleaning school lines, systems and appliances.

A do-not-use water order has been in effect since 5 p.m. Thursday when tests confirmed the chemical was in the water at the Kanawha Valley water treatment plant. At that time, WVAW said the order was out of an “abundance of caution” because it was not immediately clear what severity the chemical, even in a diluted form, could have on health.

By Sunday night, about 72 hours later, state officials said the results of water quality tests were allowing them to move to the next phase of restoration.

“Over the past 24 hours, sampling and testing has provided confirmation that….we have, at the water treatment facility, a consistent number of one ppm (parts per million),” said state Adjutant General James Hoyer.

National Guard Col. Greg Grant confirmed zero ppm of the chemical was detected at the plant’s intake and zero ppm was detected at the plant’s outtake for a period covering 24 hours.

The next phase of the restoration process will involve water testing in WVAW’s individual water zones, starting at the treatment facility, and spreading throughout the entire system.

“Continuous operations are going to go on as long as necessary to ensure that we get all the samples, throughout the zones and the districts, taken care of,” said Grant. He said 16 teams were working 24 hours a day to collect water samples to send to 10 labs throughout West Virginia.

McIntyre said once test results indicated the presence of the chemical in the water in individual areas was below the acceptable level of one ppm, the do-not-use order would be lifted by zones.

“Those zones are prioritized. They’re done by pressure zones so they will overlap zip codes. They will overlap county lines. They’ll overlap system lines, because they’re based on our system’s pressure zones,” McIntyre said.

Customers in zones receiving the green light must go through a protocol the company had not yet issued as of Sunday night. The protocol, McIntyre said, would serve as instructions for flushing home plumbing systems.

“We can’t have all the customers doing this protocol all at the same time or it could hinder our recovery efforts,” said McIntyre.

When it begins, he said the process would start with four zones in the immediate Charleston area involving an estimated 25,000 homes and businesses, including four major hospitals, that use 60 percent of the water from the affected plant.

Those first four zones cover an area in downtown Charleston, from the plant along the Elk River, to the 35th Street Bridge, Kanawha City, South Charleston and the West Side and North Charleston communities.

McIntyre would not provide an estimated timeline for the launch of green-lighting process. “I don’t believe we’re several days from starting to lift, but I’m not saying today,” he said.

WVAW customers will be able to check the status of their properties—whether they’re in green zones and allowed to start flushing their water, or in red zones and still under the do-not-use water order—through a website mapping system that had not yet launched Sunday night.

According to WVAW, automated phone messages would also go out by zones and a 24/7 hotline would be available for inquiries about the zone opening schedule.

All state offices were scheduled to open on regular schedules Monday.

Karen Bowling, the secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, said 10 people have been admitted to hospitals for treatment while 169 others were treated and released at emergency rooms.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said the agency had delivered more than 2 million liters of water to Charleston from its Maryland distribution centers in Cumberland and Frederick.

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  • Wanda

    Not only do we still not have water, last night our power was also out....and I still can't find a current map with our location on it. Why can't you just publish the areas that are allowed to use their water; so much easier.

  • Steve WV

    I think I seen a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in the sewers of Charleston !!!!!!!!!

  • Laurel

    In light of all the suffering going on in the world today, I'm dumb-founded at the petty griping I hear West Virginians doing. How much worse one's suffering could be. While having to resort to bottled water and the likes is inconvenient, you still have food and electricity and plumbing. Suck it up already. At worst, you will be a few more days without water. At best, you already have it once again. Perhaps you should go spend a few day in a 3-world country and then you might realize just how blessed you are.

    • concerned mom

      Lady if u r not going through this water crisis where do u get the nerv to tell us how to feel an react to this dangerous situation. would u want ur loved ones drinking or using this water an becoming ill from it ordown the line having health issues from it??? This is a scary situation an it definitely isn't easy to deal with especially us who have children! So pleas don't tell us how to react to this situation unless u r dealing with it too! Yea it could b wprse

      • Paul D.

        Actually, in almost all of the "third-world", people in cities the size of Charleston have reasonably safe running water, and food and electricity too. They would probably be protesting even more vigorously if such a thing happened in their city.

  • harold

    how do I get to the do not use map?

  • cjmilam

    West Virginia Water should be responable for this.Thats what they get paid for to keep check on water system.Should have been stopped before it got into system.

    • CAT

      You are so correct. Seems that city water systems beyond WV have chosen to do the correct thing and not pump the water from the Ohio until the contamination passes. That was just a little too simple for WVAW to have done. Now we all suffer the consequences.

  • CAT

    I have talked to many people that they are not going to use the water for a long time because they do not trust what we have been told by people who have no clue of the affects....

  • CAT

    Why do the idiots tell us that your zone is only identified when it turns from red to blue. So point being it doesn't make a dam if you know your zone or not. Talked to many people who have experienced the same frustration.

  • Mark Shanklin

    We live at Holmes Branch Rd. off Kan.Two Mile Rd. at the end of Holmes Branch Rd. The Last Resort. We also have a bypass run off at the end of Amercian Waters line that runs constant 24 /7 yearround Cause we are at the end of line.Our water always smells with the the bypass run off or without.The question is this bypass run off the water co. has installed at the end of our line.Has the D E P approved it and why doesn't and water co. test it.The only way we can tell of no smell is that if we open the fire hydrant which is at the bottom of our driveway on Holmes Branch Rd. 1406 /Winter Haven Ln.Who do we address or contact the right people to whom it concerns.Its been this way since the water has been installed at the start.Water co.just egnores the problem.They have to use or drink it.Why should they care. Thank You; The Shanklin Family.

  • Jordan

    Whata start to 2014

  • Carol

    A correction, in my frustration left out the key comment once putting in the address it did NOT give me the zone number it only pinpointed my address on the map.

  • Carol

    I have been all over different sites to pull up the zone map. I did exactly what was reported in the special this evening. Went to Amercan Water site then the map which is very hard to find , put in my address and the only thing that happened was it pinpointed on the map my address with indicating the zone number. Don't you think you could just make it a little easier by just posting a map with the zones indicated. I know where I live.

    • Carol

      I have been all over different sites to pull up the zone map. I did exactly what was reported in the special this evening. Went to Amercan Water site then the map which is very hard to find , put in my address and the only thing that happened was it pinpointed on the map my address with not indicating the zone number. Don't you think you could just make it a little easier by just posting a map with the zones indicated. I know where I live.

  • Annette Buzzard

    I would like to say that there are a lot more people very sick over this contamination but are too sick to have to set at an emergency room for hours to be seen, and I am one of those people who set suffering at home. I think there should have been somewhere to go that you could get the steroid shot without waiting for hours!! This was not our fault but yet those of us with a compromised immune system have to be ill because of it. I've been miserable the last 2 days but do not have the energy to sit at a HOSPITAL!

  • ScobyD

    Saw a whole great big flock of buzzards circling charleston today, no wait! It wasn't buzzards, it was lawyers! Already sick of these parasites commercials.......

  • SL Shaver

    what is the URL for the WV Am Water "zone" map? I can't find it on the website.

    • Larry

  • Shannon Westerman

    My only comment to our Governor and his staff. When holding a media press conference it would certainly be to the benefit of those of us watching and listening that consideration be given to allow those asking questions have a microphone available so the question can be heard not just the answer.

    • BigMo

      My only comment to governor would be please get that tooth replaced that is missing. What a wood tick,

    • Carol

      Agree ....good comment