As of Monday morning, 231 people had gone to West Virginia hospitals for poisoning related to contaminated water from a coal industry distributor's chemical leak, according to officials. It is unknown how many people have actually been poisoned and how many have gone to clinics.
Number of poisoned people unknown
Thousands of people had used the poisoned water before knowing anything about the water crisis and the emergency declared.
"They don't even know what the health risks are," Stacy Kirk of Culloden told CNN affiliate WSAZ. "We had bathed, cooked and everything right before the news came on (with the water warning)."
Residents presented with skin irritation, throat problems, chest and stomach ailments, Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said over the weekend.
Fourteen people have been hospitalized, according to Karen Bowling, secretary of the state's Department of Health and Human Resources on Sunday.
Independent toxicologists' mantra during the peak of BP's Gulf of Mexico catastrophe was, "There is no safe level of poison."
While calls to poison control centers have declined, according to Bowling, residents remain anxious. They say they are not being adequately told what the present health risks are, echoing what Gulf Coast residents have said for almost four years.
Differences between then along the Gulf and now in West Virginia is that the public is being told to not use the water and emergency workers are providing water. Gulf Coast residents were provided neither.
“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged NOT to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing. … Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the West Virginia state water company have been trucking in bottled water. Police, firefighters and National Guard troops have been helping to distribute that water around Charleston.
There are now 77 water distribution centers and the addresses have been published on Governor Tomblin's website, http://www.governor.wv.gov/Pages/State-of-Emergency.aspx.
Koch's Coal is king in West Virginia
The emergency basically stems from the 1% icon, Koch Industries.
A tank in Charleston belonging to Freedom Industries, a chemical distributor for Koch Industries, leaking 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the environment, including Elk River.
The chemical is used for coal washing processes. West Virginia is coal country.
Over 20 lawsuits had already been filed Monday.
A Charleston judge ordered the company at the source of the leak, Freedom Industries, and West Virginia American, the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, to preserve all relevant documents and physical evidence Monday.
"Disposable plates and utensils, etc. are in short supply but some local churches are giving those away," a resident, Jan Williamson wrote in an email to CNN. "We are definitely trying to prevent dirty dishes, but they are stacking up quickly.
“The problem is," she said, “when they say the water is fine to drink, do we believe them?"