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W.Va. Chemical Spill Leaves Thousands Without Clean Water

Thousands of people in West Virginia are being advised not to use tap water because of a chemical spill in the Elk River.
Posted at 7:35 AM, Jan 10, 2014

Thousands of people in West Virginia were warned not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with their tap water Thursday — and it's all because of this.

"A chemical spill in a West Virginia river has contaminated water for more than 100,000 people. The spill is in the Elk River in Charleston, affecting nine counties. The governor of West Virginia has declared a state of emergency there." (Via WAGA)

According to a post on West Virginia American Water Company's Facebook page, nine counties have been affected by the spill, and officials have advised residents not to use tap water for any reason until the water distribution system has been flushed out.

The chemical, which Fox News reports is a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, leaked into the Elk River from a tank at Freedom Industries in Charleston.

The plant did have a containment area set up around the tanks, but the chemical leak overran it and poured into the river early Thursday. It's unclear how much leaked into the water. (Via KYW-TV)

"It's clear that's migrated through the treatment plant into the distribution system, and we're still sampling and looking at concentrations." (Via WTTG)

According to CNN, the chemical isn't necessarily toxic because it's been diluted in the water, but it can be dangerous if it's ingested. It can also cause skin and eye irritation in some people.

As of early Friday, there were no reports of illness from anyone in the affected areas. But schools and restaurants in the nine counties have been temporarily closed as a precaution. (Via WHEC)

Officials say they're not sure when the pipes will be cleared or when the water will be safe to use again.