CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said there was a sigh relief in his office Friday afternoon when the final zone impacted by the water emergency went blue but he said he knows a simple changing of the map does not end what started more than a week ago.
Tomblin said he believes the water running through the West Virginia American Water system in the nine impacted counties is safe but realizes it may take a while for residents to fully trust it.
“We are going on the best information available from the CDC. We are within the safe limits,” Tomblin said. “If people are not 100 percent confident, it’s a personal choice. There’s bottled water available and until people feel comfortable with it they are going to have to make that choice.”
The final zone to go blue Friday afternoon was Clendenin in Kanawha County. A chemical storage tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked approximately 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM into the Elk River just above West Virginia American Water’s large distribution plant. The spill was first detected Jan. 9. The water company issued a Do Not Use water order for customers in the nine-county region. The last zone cleared Friday afternoon was Clendenin in Kanawha County.
Tomblin said 15 million bottles of water have been distributed in the impacted counties. He said that will continue into next week.
“I’ve asked the director of Homeland Security to place additional orders,” the governor said.
The West Virginia National Guard will continue working with other experts on the water testing. State Adjutant General Jim Hoyer said the water in the system will be tested at parts per billion, not million; to make sure the water system is safe.
West Virginia American Water urged some residents in Putnam County Friday not to use the water because of higher testing levels. Hoyer said he wasn’t sure if other zones might experience the same problems in the future. Hoyer said the water coming out of the Kanawha Valley plant has been at non-detectable levels since last Monday night.
State Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said Friday at the direction of the governor he is preparing a request for a major federal disaster declaration from President Barack Obama.
Other information released by the governor’s office Friday:
–Gianato said at some point the delivery of water from FEMA would stop. “The private sector is back up and functioning and they have plenty of supplies. Eventually we won’t be able to continually supply water for everyone,” he said.
–Gov. Tomblin said he’ll introduce a bill Monday in the legislature dealing with above ground storage operations. He said it empowers the DEP to implement a program. The bill will also require water systems to have plans in place to prepare for emergencies.
–Gov. Tomblin asked residents not to take more free water than they need.