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W. Virginia: Chemicals leaked into drinking water, State of Emergency issued

Sutton Dam on the Elk River in West Virginia
Sutton Dam on the Elk River in West Virginia

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has issued a State of Emergency for eight counties after a chemical leak in Kanawha County Thursday morning.

The State of Emergency includes West Virginia American Water customers in Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties. Culloden in Cabell County is also under the advisory. No other Cabell County customers are effected.

West Virginia American Water says customers on Queen Shoals PSD, Lincoln PSD, and Reamer Hill are also impacted by the advisory.

WVAW customers are told not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing, or bathing. You can use the water for toilets and fire emergencies. Boiling water will not get rid of the chemical. This is believed to impact 100,000 customers.

The Kanawha Charleston Health Department, which covers Kanawha and Putnam counties tells all permit holders in both counties, including daycare's, universities, restaurants, and schools need to shut down.

West Virginia DHHR says symptoms include:

  • Severe burning in throat
  • Severe eye irritation
  • Non-stop vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe skin irritation such as skin blistering

Homeland Security says if you feel sick, seek medical attention at a local hospital or call poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222. You can also call the Emergency Operations Center at 304-746-8828.

According to a news release, the leak happened at Freedom Industries in Charleston. The leaked product is 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation.

The chemical is believed to have leaked into the Elk River.

Dr. Michael Castellani with Marshall University tells

  • It is colorless and odorless
  • If you bath with contaminated water, it will irritate your skin
  • It is also a respiratory irritant if you inhale it
  • It may have a gas taste

West Virginia American Water believes the material is hazardous, but is not lethal in its current form.

State of Emergency leads to water shortage in area grocery stores

Several stores in Kanawha County have reported customers rushing out and filling carts with bottles and jugs of water, as well as ice.

The Kanawha County Emergency Management Department and the Kanawha County Sheriff are asking citizens to, “Not Panic”. In a press release, they said, "Please do not rush out to your local grocery store or convenience store to purchase water."

Dunbar Kroger tells they are out of water and will not get a new shipment until Friday afternoon.

Police are on standby at Kroger on Charleston's west side. St. Albans Police say K-Mart and Kroger are both out of water.

FEMA has been contacted to bring clean water into the area.

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