Elk River Chemical Spill

West Virginia Morning
12:26 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Water Flushing Begins After Thursday's Chemical Leak, The Legislature & The Public Pitch In

West Virginia American Water begins to the flushing process after Thursday's chemical spill at Freedom Industries, the West Virginia Legislature takes advantage of a lack of a quorum to help those in need, residents in areas outside those affect also pitch in, and WNYC's (and former West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter) Anna Sale asks an important question: What does West Virginia have to do to get your attention?

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Chemical Spill
10:35 am
Tue January 14, 2014

What Might Help Prevent a Chemical Spill From Happening Again?

Gov. Tomblin speaks at a press conference following last week's chemical spill.
Credit Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman says he and Gov. Tomblin are already having conversations about what possible legislation can be introduced following last week’s chemical spill.

Officials at Downstream Strategies in Morgantown say the Freedom Industries facility slipped through many gaps in the regulatory system. One of these gaps is that since the company wasn’t storing a petroleum product just a few miles from the water intake, it wasn’t subject to a lot of regulations and oversight that would have required stronger contingency plans, in case a spill happened, and much more frequent reporting.

"As a product, MCHM is not a hazardous substance. There's only very limited toxicology data on that, but it's not regulated as a hazardous substance itself, just a component of it is, which is methanol," said Marc Glass with Downstream Strategies.

"It's a mixture of several components."

  Glass,  says collaboration and cooperation between the utility company, along with the industry and even environmental regulators, must be much better.

He says there’s a framework, an assessment plan that was written in 2002, that could act as a tool to help all stakeholders work together better. It's a source water assessment program, that was actually written for the Elk River. This assessment is located here.

The 2002 assessment suggested, amongst other things, that a secondary source of water should be identified to help protect drinking water when incidents occur.

But Glass says regardless of what is done, it needs to happen soon, because incidents like this one could certainly happen at any time, if problems are neglected.

“It’s certainly a wake up call for what could have happened, and a good opportunity to take heed of just how critical access to clean water, how critical that is for our economy," Glass said.

"We always talk about the challenges of balancing the environment with the economy, but just look at what happens to the economy when we don't have the availability of good, clean water.

Wyoming County accepting donations
11:54 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Neighbor Helping Neighbor; West Virginians Setup Donation Stations

The Mullens Opportunity Center is hoping to fill this room with donations.
Credit Jessica Lilly

Residents are pitching in across the state to help out their fellow West Virginians. Churches, schools and even businesses have been collecting items for several days and sending to areas affected by the ban.

As the ban to use water is slowly lifted, several places in Wyoming County are still collecting items like baby wipes, diapers, formula, and of course … water.

"Go without water for a few days and you’ll just how much you miss that water," Charlene Cook said.

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Chemical Leak
9:27 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Hollywood Film Subject and Activist Urges Those Affected by Chemical Leak to Ask Questions

Credit Dave Mistich

Legal clerk and environmental activist Erin Brockovich is attempting to rally the public in West Virginia’s capital city after a coal scrubbing chemical produced by Freedom Industries tainted water supplies in nine counties last week.

Brockovich spoke to a crowd of concerned citizens at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium. She urged the public not to be too quick in returning to use the water they had been without for five days.

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Around the Nation
8:53 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

The Big Impact Of A Little-Known Chemical In W.Va. Spill

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 10:06 am

The chemical that was found last week to be contaminating the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians is used to clean coal. But very little is known about how toxic it is to people or to the environment when it spills.

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W. Va. Legislature
8:06 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Chemical Leak Impedes W. Va. Legislature

The House of Delegates with many empty seats for Monday's floor session.
Credit Aaron Payne

Entering the first full week of the second session of the 81st West Virginia Legislature, the normal process has been slowed by a coal cleaning chemical leaking into the water supply of over 300,000 West Virginians. While some work was done today, most of the legislatures’ efforts were toward the safety of the citizens.

The House of Delegates had only 43 members in attendance for its floor session on Monday, which did not allow for a quorum. The House was adjourned until 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Many committee meetings were rescheduled as well.

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The Legislature Today
7:07 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Interview with Governor Tomblin kicks off The Legislature Today

The recent chemical spill and water crisis were the focus of The Legislature Today. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and General James Hoyer discuss the current situation with Beth Vorhees. 

Subscribe to the podcast for daily downloads of the program.

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Chemical Leak
6:10 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

W.Va. Chemical Spill? A World Perspective

Projected Global Water Scarcity 2025
Credit International Water Management Institute


The chemical that spilled into a major West Virginia river last week forced about 300,000 people in Charleston and surrounding areas not to use their tap water over several days for drinking, cooking, bathing or washing clothes or anything else. Having to use bottled for many daily tasks has no doubt been an inconvenience, and a handful of West Virginians have been treated for mild, flu-like symptoms after being exposed to the chemical in the water.


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Around the Nation
5:28 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

West Virginia Tap Water Ban Awaits A Good Flush

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 8:53 pm



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Faucets in parts of West Virginia are running drinkable water again. This after a chemical spill leaked into the Elk River and tainted the local water supply. After a five-day ban on tap water in and around Charleston, Governor Earl Tomblin today announced the results of days of testing.

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Season Premiere
2:51 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Governor Tomblin to Discuss Chemical Leak & Water Emergency on The Legislature Today

Credit West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will be the first guest on this season of The Legislature Today. He will discuss the recent chemical leak.

The episode will be taped live today, and will air this evening at 6:30 on West Virginia PBS. The show airs Weekdays while the the legislature is in session.

You can also hear the show at 6:30 on West Virginia Public Radio, or listen live on the internet.

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Water Ban Lifted
1:52 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

West Virginia American Water: 'Zones' Become 'Areas', More Cleared

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre announces on Monday, January 13th that the do not use order has been listed for the first of several zones and the flushing process can begin.
Credit Scott Finn / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Updated: January 14, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

From West Virginia American Water's Facebook page:

As West Virginia American Water proceeds with the lifting of Do Not Use, we will refer to the localities being lifted as "areas." Yesterday, we used the term "zones" to describe the four primary locations close to the Kanawha Valley treatment plant where we were able to lift the ban and ensure that the transition did not disrupt our production and distribution system.

The areas where we are lifting the Do Not Use orders are based on pressure zones, and the order of the lift announcements are determined by where acceptable test results obtained from samples have been confirmed. If you have any questions when a new Do Not Use lift is issued, please refer to the map listed under “Do Not Use Water” section of our website at www.westvirginiaamwater.com.

Updated: January 13, 2014 at 9:52 p.m.

Zone Four in North Charleston has been cleared for the flushing process to begin as of 9 p.m. If you have questions about whether your home or business has been approved for the flush process, see West Virginia American Water's interactive map:


Also, the water company announced the fourth  zone will end Monday's flushing process for  the day. More zones will be approved for flushing Tuesday.

From West Virginia American Water's Facebook page:

"After lifting the "do not use" order for 26,000 customers today, the system needs time to settle so our operators can measure how it is reacting to the flushing activity. Therefore, we will not lift any additional zones tonight. We will provide updates on the next lift zone early Tuesday morning. Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation."

Updated: January 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.

Zone 3, containing most of South Charleston, has now been cleared to start flushing systems within their homes and cleaning appliances. Make sure you are checking the West Virginia American Water interactive map to make sure your zone's advisory has been lifted before beginning the flushing process. The map can be found at the link below. 


 Updated: January 13, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.

Through a news release, Facebook, and Twitter, West Virginia American Water has announced the ban on the second zone has been lifted, which includes nearly all of the Kanawha City area.

Customers of the water company are urged not to begin the flushing process until their zone is approved. To find out if your zone is ready for the flushing process, refer to West Virgina American Water's interactive map on their website here:


Original Story Posted January 13, 2014 at 1:52 p.m.

Governor Tomblin, West Virginia American Water, and other officials made the announcement that the flushing process could begin at a Monday news conference just after noon.

A ban on tap water has been lifted in part of West Virginia that was hit by a chemical that spilled into a river and tainted the water supply.
     Gov. Earl Tomblin made the announcement at a news conference Monday, five days after about 300,000 people were told not to drink, wash or use the water in any way other than to flush their toilets.
     Officials are lifting the ban in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system is not overwhelmed by excessive demand, which could cause more water quality and service issues.
     The water crisis started Thursday when the chemical used in coal processing leaked from a Freedom Industries plant into the nearby Elk River.
     It's still not clear exactly what caused a tank to start leaking the chemical.

West Virginia American Water has set up a website for customers to find out if their zone has been approved. Customers have also been told they can call a toll free number if they need assistance in identifying which zone they reside. That

The water company has also provided highly detailed step-by-step instructions for customers to refer to once their zone has been cleared for the flushing process.

West Virginia Morning
8:47 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Aftermath of Chemical Leak, EPA Inspections, Gordon Gee & More

  The aftermath of last week's chemical spill continues. On this West Virginia Morning, we learn why the Department of Environmental Protection wasn't inspecting the storage tank. Also, an interview with WVU interim president E. Gordon Gee.

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6:19 am
Mon January 13, 2014

7 Things We Know About the Chemical Spill in West Virginia

A faulty retaining wall is being blamed for not containing the leak of Crude MCHM into the Elk River Thursday.
Credit C.W Sigman

For four days, more than  300,000 West Virginia American Water customers in West Virginia have been told not to ingest, cook, bathe, wash or boil water.

Why? A chemical spill Thursday of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol from Freedom Industries in Charleston.

On Friday, we asked five questions about the spill. Since then, we have found some answers, and even more questions.

1. How harmful is this chemical to drink or breathe?

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Chemical Leak
10:29 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

End of Outage May Be in Sight for Water Customers, Businesses

Customers line up at the Steak Escape on Corridor G, one of the first restaurants to open after a chemical leak contaminated the water supply of nine counties.
Credit Ashton Marra

John Kaiser of Dunbar has been without water since Thursday. No dishes, no laundry, no shower just like 300,000 other West Virginians.

But Sunday, you could say, was a better day for Kaiser. Sunday one of his three Kanawha County restaurants—a Steak Escape connected to a gas station on Corridor G—was allowed to reopen.

“You had to submit a plan to the health department of how you would meet their standards,” he said. “We did that and they came out (Saturday) night, did a walk through, did an inspection and they approved us.”

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Chemical Spill Fallout
7:38 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

West Virginians Angry About Spill; Still Want Chemical, Coal Jobs

Residents line up for water.
Credit Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For Bonnie Wireman, the white plastic bag covering her kitchen faucet is a reminder that she can't drink the water.

The 81-year-old woman placed it there after forgetting several times the tap water was tainted after a coal processing chemical leaked into the area's water supply. Every time she turned on the water, she quickly stopped and cleaned her hands with peroxide - just to make sure she was safe.

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Chemical Leak
5:59 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

AUDIO: Tomblin's Sunday Briefing / Water Company to Establish Website for Clearing 'Zones'

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre addresses the media at a news briefing at the State Captiol Saturday, January 12, 2014.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin says water tests are encouraging after a chemical spill tainted the supply, but people are still being told not to drink or bath in the water.

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Chemical Leak
12:22 am
Sun January 12, 2014

Testing Results Show Downward Trend in Water Contamination

Col. Greg Grant explains the water testing process during a press conference at the Capitol Saturday night.
Credit Ashton Marra

It’s been nearly three days since a “do not use” water advisory was issued for more than 300,000 people in the Kanawha Valley, but now officials are saying the end may be in sight.

It took a team of chemists from the National Guard a full day to produce a method testing the amount of crude MCHM in the water at the contaminated treatment facility.  The chemical is used in a coal washing process and leaked into the water supply Thursday morning from a storage tank along the Elk River.

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Chemical Leak
6:17 pm
Sat January 11, 2014

Chemical Safety Board to Investigate Freedom Industries Spill

Credit C.W Sigman

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board says it will investigate a chemical spill in the Elk River that has contaminated the public water supply in nine counties.
     Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said Saturday that the board wants to find out how a leak of such magnitude occurred, and how to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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Chemical Leak
5:21 pm
Sat January 11, 2014

WVAW President: Days Before Water is Returned

Adjutant General James Hoyer updated the public on the testing of West Virginia American Water samples during a press conference at the Capitol.
Credit Ashton Marra

Businesses in Charleston may soon be allowed to reopen, but West Virginia American Water customers will still have to wait- maybe as long as days- before the “do not use” advisory is lifted.

Kanawha Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Rahl Gutpa said the county health department will begin reviewing plans from businesses that can show they can safely reopen their doors.

He said they will have to find an alternative source of water to be approved and will go through onsite reviews for safety.

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Chemical Leak
5:05 pm
Sat January 11, 2014

The Latest Conversation on #wvchemleak from Twitter

Here are the latests tweets about the chemical leak using the hashtag #wvchemleak

Be sure to follow @wvpublicnews for continuing coverage.

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