September 28, 2022

Hazardous Chemical Leaked into West Virginia Water Supply

More than 300,000 residents of West Virginia have been forced to use bottled water since a chemical spill contaminated the water supply in the Elk River. A Freedom Industries plant had a 40,000 gallon tank of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol next to the river. Officials say that about 7,500 gallons leaked into the river, but no one is sure.

Water in SinkThe West Virginia governor issued a State of Emergency for West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties, and President Obama signed an Emergency Declaration on January 10, 2013 to authorize federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief efforts. The West Virginia American Water Company has issued a “do not use” order; that means residents cannot use the water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing, or bathing.

Last week, residents complained about a “licorice” odor in their tap water. The chemical is used to wash coal before it goes on the market. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is not lethal, but is “harmful if swallowed”, “harmful if inhaled” and “causes eye and skin irritation.”

American Water Company President Jeff McIntyre said in a statement, “I don’t know if the water is not safe. Until we get out and flush the actual system and do more testing, we can’t say how long this will last at this time.” That confusing statement aside, residents are being to told to use the water only for flushing toilets.

Symptoms of exposure to 4-methylcyclohexane methanol include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea, reddened skin, itching, and rashes. Residents can get water at filling and distribution centers in the area. In addition, businesses are opening to the public for showers. Water flushing could start today, and officials say chemical levels are coming down.

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