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West Virginia chemical spill day 4: Water only safe for toilet flushing

The West Virginia Chemical spill is going into day four as the work week starts and the frustration is mounting. The water in a nine county area is unfit for human consumption. According to CBS News on Jan 12, 300,000 residents have gone three days without being able to use the tap water for even showering.

West Virginia chemical spill has water hard to come by.
Photo by Tom Hindman/Getty Images

The chemical spill was discovered on Thursday. It started with a licorice-like smell coming out of the tap. A company in the area, Freedom Industries, sprung a leak in a foaming agent used in industrial cleaning and it seeped into the nearby Elk River and found its way into the water supply.

Estimates put the leakage about 7, 500 gallons of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. Now the wait is on for the tap water to flow clean again. The daily testing needs to show that the chemical registers below 1 parts per million.

This has to be consistently shown, so it is far from over yet. Officials estimate it could take “days” for the chemicals in the tap water to flush out of the system. It’s slow going because no one is using the water as they regularly would. Other than flushing the toilet, it is not used for anything else.

The chemical spill put a damper on tourism in the area. Most out-of-state folks visiting the area have gone home. Locals are staying home or having dinner out of town at an area not under this water ban.

Hotel rooms are empty, as are the restaurants. Four people have been hospitalized out of the 32 folks seeking medical attention after drinking the water before they learned of the ban. Most of the folks seeking medical treatment were complaining of nausea.

Restaurants are hit hard as the health department can’t let them open without enough bottled water to wash the dishes and for the employees to wash their hands. Even airlines have canceled flights at Charleston’s Yeager Airport because the lack of water violates an agreement the airlines have with the airport.

State officials are working around the clock to find alternatives for supplying the water needed to as many businesses as possible so they can open.

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