CHARLESTON, WV: A chemical spill last Wednesday in the Elk River put the capital city of West Virginia into disaster. The 300,000 residents of Charleston were advised not to drink, cook, bathe or wash clothes/dishes with the tap water. The water advisory also affects nine surrounding counties.
The chemical that leaked into the river is called, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol or Crude MCHM and is a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process. As much as 40,000 gallons may have been released from the Freedom Industries plant.
As part of the emergency declaration, all schools have been closed. Once word got out of the chemical spill, residents lined up at grocery stores to buy bottled water, in what one local resident described as ‘total chaos.’
Officials say for now, there is no way to treat the tainted water besides flushing the system until concentrations are low enough to be considered safe.
Local stores quickly ran out of bottled water, however the National Guard delivered truck loads of water Saturday morning and distributed it to residents at volunteer fire departments and community centers.
One local resident told CBC news that her community of Charleston is known as ‘chemical valley’ and she has lived with the threat of a chemical disaster all her life. So far 32 people have sought hospital treatment.
(With information from Rhonda Shafner, Monika Mathur of the Associated Press)