West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads…
I highly doubt John Denver would be singing about West Virginia today; as authorities are advising residents to only use the water in their pipes for flushing. That means no bathing, no brushing your teeth with it, cooking with it, and more importantly—no readily available drinking water.
According to Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water Co.,” We don't know that the water is not safe, but I can't say it is safe," is what he told reporters about the water his company provides to customers in 9 counties which remain in the “do-not-use” areas in central and southwestern West Virginia.
It began last night when the residents of Kanawha County flooded the West Virginia American Water Co. with calls regarding a stench in the air. This morning brought news from the Kanawha County Fire Department along with West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection who determined where the “licorice” scent was stemming from. In a 48’000-gallon storage tank which sits on the Elk River and provides water for approximately 1’500 miles of pipeline to the consumers in southwest and central West Virginia, a leak of a chemical known as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol which is used to wash coal before it goes to market, overflowed it’s containment area, and proceeded to contaminate the river through the soil in the surrounding area. The cause of how the leak occurred is still undetermined.
According to Thomas Aluise, a spokes person for West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection Agency, “4-methylcyclohexane methanol, is harmful if swallowed.”
Adding to the fact, of not being able to determine whether the water is safe or not at this point in all counties affected; (see above quote) according to John McIntyre, president of West Virginia Water Co. says of the chemical leak “It is not intended to be in water," McIntyre said. "Unfortunately, this is in the distribution system. Once it's in there, there's no more treatment for it."
Nearly 1’000 calls were placed to 911 within the first 4-5 hours of the incident, 24 of which were for emergency medical services, so far 5 people have been hospitalized as a result of the contamination.
Most local businesses as well as schools were forced to shut down for the day, losing revenue, and at the moment-- West Virginia American Water Co. doesn’t even have an estimated timeline for when the issue will be resolved for the residents this has affected.
The do-not-use notice remains in effect for the customers in nine counties served by West Virginia American Water Co. including; customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties are affected.
West Virginia American Water Co. has provided 12 tanker trucks filled with water, and bought four tractor-trailer loads of bottled water for distribution to those in need.