CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Board of Education President Pete Thaw said Thursday he believes schools in his county will continue to have problems with the smell of licorice in the days to come. The county closed three schools early Thursday and five schools have closed in the last two days.

“I think this is going to go on for a long time and anytime it shows up we’re going to have to dismiss,” Thaw said.

School officials closed J.E. Robins, Watts and Overbrook elementary schools in Charleston after the odor was detected. All of the schools have been previously tested for the chemical MCHM in the days following the Jan. 9 chemical leak at Freedom Industries that began the water emergency. All had previously tested at Non Detect levels.

But the smell returned to those schools along with Riverside High and Midland Trail Elementary Wednesday. Those two schools were closed again Thursday.

“People are going to say, ‘Why do you do it on the smell?’ Thaw said. “We’re going to do it on any indication at all. Any indication at all we’ve got to be super careful.”

The inter-agency testing team will oversee re-flushing and retesting at the schools.

Kanawha County School Superintendent Ron Duerring told the Charleston Daily Mail Thursday the school system has to dismiss.

“You don’t know what to do anymore, you don’t know what’s right and wrong,” Duerring said. “If they get that smell then there’s a concern about that odor, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Thaw agreed.

“We have to react. Can you imagine not letting them go home? Can you imagine a child smelling this, complaining about it and saying you can’t go home? No, no, no,” Thaw said.

Kanawha County students have already missed more than 10 days of school since Jan. 1 with the water emergency and weather combined. Thaw said academics are impacted.

“It’s unbelievable. First, we had the snow and we had the ice and now we have this,” he said. “This is not a good academic year.”


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  • One in the Same

    The same idiots who elected Earl Ray in the first place are the same idiots complaining that he's clueless on this ongoing water emergency.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      Are we to infer that 1) you did not vote for Earl Ray and 2) you think he's doing just fine with his handling of the water situation?

  • Benthere

    This has been a failure at every level. We cant do the basics....protecting children at school. I really feel bad for families with small children. This is what happens when States like West Virginia do not enforce regulations. Poor states are so desperate for jobs they look the other way ....out fear of losing what little they have. There has to be some criminal penalty for this action. How in the hell has no one and I mean no one lost their job at the DEP! Earl Ray has been a complete failure at leading through this entire mess.


    The halflife of MCHM in water is 2 weeks. It's been 4. Something doesn't add up.

  • Brian

    We're waiting, "Earl Ray"!! Where are you?? I'm starting to thing your "nads" have never dropped. You fell into your position. Show some mustard, if you have any.

    • Benthere

      Earl Ray is only worried about the collateral damage that may happen to the coal industry. The same goes for Manchin and Capito. Kids are being carried out of school to an ambulance and still no closure. This is a national embarrassment for the state that will carry a stain for a long time.

  • Bruiser

    I am surprised of some of the comments. People are going to be paranoid and who can blame them. I sympathize completely, if this chemical does have a licorice smell to it and they smell it in the water, they should not be drinking it. As far as the businesses, I am not sure if they are as willing to go to the extra expense of running their business on bottled water. What I cannot understand is why there have not been arrests. I remember where I worked they had a spill and the department head was taken to jail, but I also realize the rules that apply to some are ignored for others and who ever is responsible for that, should also be taken to jail. The actions of owners and the authorities who are responsible in not doing their job should be in very serious trouble.

  • rick

    Must be bringing Twizzlers to school.

  • Low Rider

    Bring in bottled water. The licorice smell is a overreaction by an administrator who is afraid to get sued by some hysterical parent. Do you think the McDonalds by Riverside H.S. is closing?

    Better yet...let's worry about the licorice smell when a good % of our children in Kanawha County go home to houses that are filled with second hand smoke.

    • JamieNitro

      Low Rider, they already have bottled water. The problem becomes when you have students/faculty becoming sick (i.e. Riverside yesterday) because of the smell, you have to err on the side of caution.

  • Gary Karstens

    "Incredible to say the least"~Gary Karstens

  • Baghdad Bob

    The water is safe, I tell you! Don't believe the lies of the infidels who tell you it is unsafe.

    There is no cause for concern.

  • Chef Camille

    No answers. I really feel for these people. The state can't figure it out and the so called experts are disagreeing.

    • Brian

      This is an excellent test of Tombin's leadership skills. This is his problem, and so far he's failing miserably. I don't blame school officials for 1 second for shutting down schools because of this aftermath.

      What kind of leader are you, Earl Ray?????

      • Cincinnatus

        Tomblin is going to have a tough time testing a skill he has yet to acquire.