CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A State of Emergency remained in effect Sunday night in nine counties, though West Virginia American Water Company officials revealed details of how they plan to eventually lift the do-not-use water ban by zones.

Portions of Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson, Clay, Logan, Roane and Cabell counties have been impacted by contamination from Thursday’s chemical leak. More than 200,000 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,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Sunday night.

“I believe that we are at a point where we can say that we see light at the end of tunnel. I ask all West Virginians to continue to be patient as we work to safely restore service to the affected areas.”

Water quality was potentially compromised Thursday when a leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methane—a chemical used in coal preparation—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.

Jeff McIntyre, the president of West Virginia American Water Company, 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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Comments

  • rick

    Why are State employees upset about going to work. Our agency has been going around the clock since Thursday. I thought that is what we were supposed to do...serve the people of West Virginia.

  • rick

    This was a private enterprise event between the chemical storage company and the water company. Why does the State have to take care of the lost wages, etc. Emergency management agencies and FEMA took care of getting clean water stocks to the affected people and the locals distributed them out to people. That should be enough.

  • ALS Environmental

    ALS Environmental provides drinking water testing. Contact us here for more information and to request a quote: http://www.alsglobal.com/en/Our-Services/Life-Sciences/Environmental/Capabilities/North-America-Capabilities/USA/Drinking-Water-Testing

  • Lori Rhodes

    Whst zone is upper frame

  • wvfreedomfighter

    they aint gonna trick me....follow the money...follow the money!

  • Jim

    The link you have supplied to instructions on how to flush is not working. Please fix the problem ASAP.

  • Melanie

    What is the e-mail address and/or phone number that we can check to see what status our zones are in?

  • Bo

    link to instructions is broke

  • Patricia

    How do we access the interactive map? The web address that was given at the press conference isn't it, or it's not there yet, or something.

  • Gary Karstens

    Just trust the government people! They will inform you of what to do. Good grief!

  • ted

    I think its awsome how people have come together in this crisis!!!!
    Water is plentiful @ that must be a logisticle nite mare. So thanks
    To all tne people that has helped us thru!!!!!

  • River Rat

    What a great time to be out campaigning, but we have hardly seen if at all, any of our elected officials. No Shelly Moore or Joe or any others. I wonder if they are truly afraid to open their mouths because they might lose campaign donations…
    What great time for them to be passing out water, or talking about how to correct the situation in the future, or just lending their expertise…but wait, they are so use to doing nothing that they feel right at home

  • Jennifer

    The people who work for the state need to know how little their governor cares for them. Federal buildings were closed Friday state remained open. State is open Monday. We have families we have to find water and things to wear to work and children to find a place to stay. This was the poorest choice and most uncaring a governor has ever been. Good luck to him next time he needs a vote to become elected to another office.

    • Huh?

      He showed us exactly how much he cares for us. All $504 of it.

  • Susan Nutter-Bratt

    It seems that the chemical shouldn't have been aloud to get into the water system in he first place. I would think that something as vital as water, would be tested as it enters the plant and that the water co. (who doesn't mind to raise rates) could afford to have chemical engineers sampling and planning for possible problems. This should have never happened. It makes me wonder, how many other times our water could have been polluted and we would have no idea!

  • Wanda R.

    I have to give Freedom's president credit for being straight forward about his unconcern for the community and its people. American water representatives would have won an Oscar award for the "most caring individuals". We didn't buy it. Your words was as sweet as the chemical smell and just as dangerous. AND THE OSCAR GOES TO AMERICAN WATER FOR THEIR ROLE IN " HOW TO RUN A COMPANY WITH CLOSED EYES"