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No easy fix for West Virginia water contamination

Today, Jan. 10, 2014, Freedom Industries released a statement saying they were “working around the clock” to “fix the issue.” The issue is that an indeterminate amount of 4-ethylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, has been released into the Elk River in Charleston. Charleston is West Virginia's largest city, upriver from the eastern U.S. state's largest water treatment plant. Up to 300,000 residents do not have access to water that can be used for any purpose. The damage to the environment in terms of extent or time is not known. Some resident s complained that their eyes burned if they even stepped outside. They were advised to stay indoors. The leaky tank contained as much as 400,000 gallons and may have been leaking for some time.

Elk River spill
Photo by Tom Hindman/Getty Images

Nine counties across the State are affected. President Obama issued an emergency declaration for the state of West Virginia today, and the EPA is assisting with the evaluation and clean up.

Today, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has declared a State of Emergency and is working to coordinate water distribution with an emphasis on hospitals. The state National Guard has been called upon to distribute bottled water to emergency services agencies in the nine affected counties.

The health of the river and the ecosystems dependent of the river has not yet been assessed.

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