January 10, 2014. Source: Reuters
Workers pump a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process at Freedom Industries in Charleston. Photograph: Tyler Evert/AP
A chemical spill along a West Virginia river has resulted in a tap water ban for as many as 300,000 people, shutting down schools, bars and restaurants and forcing residents to queue at stores for bottled water.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties as a result of Thursday’s spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry. The spill occurred along the Elk river in Charleston, the capital of the eastern US state.
Health officials were advising residents to use the water only for flushing toilets and fighting fires.
“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Tomblin said in a statement. “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes and schools.”
Local media showed pictures of West Virginia residents queuing at stores for bottled water, and shelves that had been emptied of their supplies.
Dr Rahul Gupta, health officer for the Kanawha-Charleston and the Putnam County health departments, ordered the closure of all restaurants, tattoo parlours and schools that received water from the West Virginia American Water company.