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Chemical Spill Causes Water Crisis in Charleston WV

Many major US News organizations ignore that over 300,000 have gone without tap water in West Virginia for five days (a full quarter of the Population living in the State)—and normal water usage has only been returned to the first 100,000 as of Tuesday morning.

West Virginia Contaminated tap water

Chemical spill has residents of West Virginia begging for water

This environmental and regulatory story has only briefly been mentioned by most major US media, and the numbers of people being affected have also been played down by only talking about the number of billed water customers, which is closer to 100,000 instead of the number of people actually affected, which is closer to 300,000. The Elk River chemical spill in Charleston West Virginia is no doubt one of the largest environmental USA stories to occur in years, and the news media is failing to report much on the topic because they seem to be pre-occupied with other “more newsworthy” events (I am not making this up the Top Stories on FoxNews.com homepage on January, 14, 2014): fox News Top Stories

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Well ladies and gents other news really did occur when chemicals used in the cleaning and processing of coal leaked from from a storage facility and into the the Elk River which is the main water supply for over 300,000 people in Charleston West Virginia.

The state put drinking, cooking and washing restrictions on tap water Thursday because
7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) had leaked from a 40,000 gallon holding tank which could cause: irritation of the skin, throat, chest and stomach, nausea, vomiting or wheezing. Besides uses in cleaning coal the chemical has been used in air fresheners and has a slight licorice odor. Not much is known about the short and long term health and safety issues relating to this compound, but a closely related chemical cyclohexanedimethanol (CHDM) was tested by the EPA and exhibited “No mortality was observed throughout the 96-hour exposure in the control or test substance”.


It is still unknown when the leak started, but the chemical appeared to come from a one inch hole in a Freedom Industries storage tank and was initially discovered and reported by employees.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and West Virginia American Water company trucked in two tractor-trailers of bottled water (more than 80,000 16-ounce bottles), which was distributed by police, firefighters and National Guard troops around Charleston. A 7,500 gallon water tanker truck from Washington, PA was also deployed, which the citizens used to fill up recycled milk jugs, spare gasoline containers and buckets to haul water back to their homes.

Schools, restaurants and day-care centers have been closed during the water crisis. Even the fifteen McDonald’s in the area were closed.

RT America News Video: W. Virginia chemical spill leaves 300,000 begging for water

On Tuesday morning 35% of the 300,000 people affected by the water ban were given the go ahead to start using their tap water again without restrictions.

Residents had been coping with the crisis by putting plastic bags over faucets and shower heads to remind them not to use the contaminated water and many left the area to find an open restaurant or a place to take a shower. There were shortages reported for bottled water almost immediately, the St. Albans Police were put on standby as both K-Mart and Kroger soon ran out of bottled water during the first day of the crisis.

To date only a little over a dozen people have been admitted to the hospital and none were in serious condition, and there has not been any reported damage to fish or wildlife.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal authority has opened an investigation into the Elk River chemical spill. However, this chemical spill obviously points to a case where the EPA regulations were not strong enough prior to the accident to adequately protect citizens. The chemical spill occurred just one mile upstream from the water treatment facility.


Green-Eco-EV News Reporting by Ken Green Burridge

kenneth green burridge

Kenneth Burridge test-drives electric Nissan LEAF in Melbourne Australia

EV of the Year Judge, independent green journalist, photographer, author and sustainability activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 30 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last seven years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, Google+Linked in or website