Chemical spill leaves 300,000 West Virginians without water
There’s a state of emergency in West Virginia and the people there getting more desperate by the minute.
The water that some 300,000 West Virginians usually depend on to slake their thirst, wash their bodies and brush their teeth is now good for only one thing – flushing their toilets, authorities told them Friday.
300,000 West Virginians told not to drink or bathe in water after chemical leak
Their water supply has been potentially poisoned by a dangerous chemical. And there’s no water to drink.
It’s all sold out. Grocery store shelves empty. People are forced to melt ice for water. Restaurants and schools are closed.
The company that may be responsible for the chemical spill, Freedom Industries has been issued a “cease operations” order.
OutFront: Mayor of Charleston, West Virginia, Danny Jones, whose town is at the center of this scare and environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who’s team is now headed to West Virginia.
At least four people have been hospitalized and hundreds of residents called the West Virginia Poison Center to report concerns or symptoms related to the spill, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes and reddened skin, state health officials told Reuters.
Allison Adler of the Department of Health and Human Resources said 47 people sought treatment at area hospitals for symptoms. The four people hospitalized were admitted to the Charleston Area Medical Center. Their conditions are not known.
Federal authorities, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, began investigating how the foaming agent escaped from the Freedom Industries plant and seeped into the Elk River. On Saturday, an investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) deployed to the scene of the spill.
The leak was discovered Thursday morning from the bottom of a storage tank. Southern said the company worked all day and through the night to remove the chemical from the site and take it elsewhere. Vacuum trucks were used to remove the chemical from the ground at the site.
“We have mitigated the risk, we believe, in terms of further material leaving this facility,” Southern said. He said the company didn’t know how much had leaked.
The tank that leaked holds at least 40,000 gallons, said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise, although officials believe no more than 5,000 gallons leaked from the tank. Some of that was contained before escaping into the river, Aluise said.
Freedom Industries was ordered Friday night to remove chemicals from its remaining above-ground tanks, Aluise added. The company was already cited for causing air pollution stemming from the odor first reported Thursday, Aluise said.