WV Gov. Declares State Of Emergency For Nine Counties After Chemical Leak

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UPDATE 4:10 p.m. Catholic Charities of West Virginia is coordinating a collection of bottled water, hand sanitizer and other items for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by a chemical spill.

The collection site is located at the Main Street headquarters of Catholic Charities in Wheeling.

Among the other items sought in the relief effort are baby wipes, plastic utensils, sports drinks, gloves, paper products and single-serve food items that do not need refrigeration or water.

The collection site will be open until 7 p.m. Friday and volunteers will deliver the supplies to Charleston.

Catholic Charities is also collecting financial donations.

UPDATE 3:15 p.m. At least half a dozen lawsuits have been filed over a chemical spill in West Virginia that contaminated water supplies.

The Kanawha County Circuit Clerk's Office reports that two lawsuits were filed Friday against Freedom Industries. Four others named Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water as defendants.

The plaintiffs include several Charleston restaurants and two individuals.

West Virginia American Water spokesman Laura Jordan says the company is aware of the lawsuits but has no comment.

Freedom Industries didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered water customers not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water after the chemical leaked from a Freedom Industries operation into the Elk River on Thursday.

UPDATE 3:00 p.m. Members of West Virginia's congressional delegation are asking people affected by a chemical spill to help one another.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Nick Rahall said Friday that they are monitoring the situation.

The lawmakers urged people to abide by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's order to not use tap water for drinking, bathing, cleaning or washing clothes.

A chemical used in processing coal spilled Thursday from a Freedom Industries operation into the Elk River in Charleston. The chemical has contaminated water supplied by West Virginia American Water to nine counties.  

UPDATE 2:11 p.m. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says water is being distributed in areas affected by a chemical spill in the Elk River.

Tomblin says the main focus is hospitals, nursing homes and residents who are the most vulnerable. The distribution will continue until the issue is resolved.

After the Thursday spill from Freedom Industries hit the river, Tomblin ordered customers of West Virginia American Water in nine counties not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water.

Seven water distribution sites opened in Kanawha County on Friday.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokesman W.C. Wertz says the company will provide several truckloads of water for distribution.

Putnam Aging assistant nutrition director Luann Willis says her agency is distributing drinking water through its nutrition program to residents in Putnam County.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller says he expects a full accounting of a chemical spill that has contaminated the water supply in nine West Virginia counties.

Rockefeller and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Friday that they are monitoring the situation. They urged water customers affected by Thursday's spill to abide by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's order to not use their tap water for drinking, bathing, cooking or laundry.

Rockefeller says he expects an accounting of what happened and how to prevent future incidents, once the affected counties return to what he calls "a semblance of normalcy."

Manchin says he will do whatever he can to help residents get the resources and help that they need.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m. Freedom Industries President Gary Southern says the company is working to determine how much of a chemical spilled from its Charleston operation into the Elk River.

Southern said Friday in a statement that the company also is working to contain the leak to prevent additional contamination.

He says safety is the first priority.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered customers of West Virginia American Water in nine counties not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water after the chemical, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, leaked from a containment area on Thursday. The order remains in effect.

Southern says Freedom Industries is working with local, state and federal authorities to fix the problem.

He says the chemical is used to in processing coal.

UPDATE 10:30 a.mSchools and restaurants closed, stores sold out of bottled water, and legislators canceled business after a chemical spill in the Elk River in Charleston affected about 300,000 people and shut down much of the city and surrounding counties.

The chemical, a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries, overran a containment area and went into the river.

The federal government joined the state Friday in declaring a disaster. In requesting the federal declaration, state officials said about 100,000 customers, or roughly 300,000 people total, were affected.

After the Thursday spill from Freedom Industries hit the river, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered customers of West Virginia American Water not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water.

The state National Guard planned to distribute bottled water to emergency services agencies in the nine affected counties.

West Virginia American Water hopes a test Friday morning will give them a better idea about the situation following a chemical leak in Charleston.

A spokesperson with West Virginia American Water tells at 8 a.m. the Corp of Engineers and Dupont will conduct tests at the same time to see if each test gets the same results. The water company hopes this test will give a better look at the water standards.

WVAW has also been working with a chemist from DuPont and Laura Jordan says he's found that the chemical is leaking at ground level.

Jordan says there is a possibility this leak has been going on for some time before it was discovered Thursday.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning West Virginians about price gouging on water, ice or other commodities in response to the water emergency.

Morrisey says it's illegal and "just plain wrong" to inflate the price of water in times of emergency. His office is already hearing reports of price gouging going on in the area.

Morrisey is encouraging anyone who has been charged overly inflated prices to file a complaint with the office's consumer protection division.

With thousands not allowed to use the water for drinking or bathing one hotel in Huntington is offering free showers for people affected by the spill.      

Pullman Plaza general manager Anna Pope says the hotel has set aside several rooms where people can shower. The hotel asks that people bring their own towels and toiletries.

Pope says the hotel also will open its lunch buffet Saturday so people can eat as well as shower. The buffet normally is closed on Saturday.

Huntington is about 50 miles west of Charleston and isn't affected by the spill.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has issued a state of emergency for nine counties after a chemical leak in Kanawha County Thursday morning.

The state of emergency includes West Virginia American Water customers in Kanawha, Cabell Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties.

West Virginia American Water says Culloden water customers are the only ones affected by the water ban. No other Cabell County customers are affected.

West Virginia American Water says customers on Queen Shoals PSD, Lincoln PSD, City of Culloden PSD, City of Hurricane PSD, and Reamer Hill are also impacted by the advisory.

WVAW customers are told not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing, or bathing. You can use the water for toilets and fire emergencies. Boiling water will not get rid of the chemical.

This is believed to impact 100,000 customers.

"Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. I've been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.

The Kanawha Charleston Health Department, which covers Kanawha and Putnam counties tells all permit holders in both counties, including daycares, universities, restaurants, and schools need to shut down.

West Virginia DHHR says symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.

Homeland Security says if you feel sick, seek medical attention at a local hospital or call poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222. You can also call the Emergency Operations Center at 304-746-8828.

According to a news release, the leak happened at Freedom Industries in Charleston. The leaked product is 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation.

The chemical is believed to have leaked into the Elk River.

West Virginia American Water believes the material is hazardous, but is not lethal in it's current form.

FEMA has been contacted to bring clean water into the area.

Officials describe the smell as something similar to liquorice.

There is no estimated time when this will be repaired, according to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The State of Emergency will be in place until Department of Health and Human Reasources, Department of Environmental Protection and West Virginia American Water determine the water is safe.

They say customers with St. Albans, Cedar Grove Water, Town of West Hamlin Water, Branchland-Midkiff PSD, Putnam PSD, and Logan County PSD are not affected by this leak.

Putnam PSD is asking customers to consider filling bottle or 2 for friends & family living in the area covered by Do Not Use warning.

The West Hamlin Volunteer Fire Department has water available for WVAW customers in Lincoln County.

Dr. Michael Castellani with Marshall University tells the chemical is colorless and there is a faint odor.

Dr. Castellani says if you bath with contaminated water, it will irritate your skin.

He tells it is also a respiratory irritant if you inhale it.

If you drink the water, Dr. Castenalli says it may have a gas taste.

Lawrence Messina, Communications Director for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety says WV Legislature will convene Friday, but with skeleton staff. Messina says the legislative manager has advised all other staff to stay home.