Taps still dry in area of West Virginia after chemical leak

Photo: Taps still dry in area of West Virginia after chemical leak / Other News

Tests were carried out Saturday on a river supplying water to hundreds of thousands of people in the US state of West Virginia after a chemical leak prompted officials to declare the water source unsafe, dpa reported.

As many as 300,000 people in nine counties were affected. They have been without water since late Thursday when the leak of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM) - a compound used to wash coal - contaminated the Elk River.

Outrage was growing as residents in the affected area headed into a third day without water in their homes. Restaurants, schools and businesses were closed throughout the area, which is located in a coal-mining region of the Appalachian Mountains.

Jeff McIntyre, the president of West Virginia American Water Company, said there was still no firm timeline for when the water would again be safe to drink, cook with or shower or bathe in.

The governor declared a state of emergency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending in truckloads of bottled water, news reports said.

McIntyre said tests were ongoing to determine the concentration of MCHM, but he refused to release the results because "you cannot make decisions like this from any one result," according to the Charleston Gazette.

An official with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said that 73 people had gone to area emergency rooms and five have been admitted to hospitals with chemical-related symptoms, the newspaper reported.

Mike Dorsey of the state Department of Environmental Protection told a news conference that 7,500 gallons of MCHM is believed to have leaked into the river through a hole in a storage tank.

The storage tank is owned by Freedom Industries, whose president, Gary Southern, apologized at a news conference late Friday.

"We are very, very sorry for the disruption," Southern said.

The United States attorney for the southern part of West Virginia said Friday an investigation had been opened into the circumstances surrounding the spill.

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