Elk River Chemical Leak in West Virginia: 8 Counties Under State of Emergency

January 9, 2014 Updated: January 9, 2014

A chemical leak in Charleston, West Virginia on Thursday prompted Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to issue a state of emergency for eight counties, including Boon County and Kanawha County.

The other counties under the original advisory were Jackson, Putnam, and Lincoln. Logan, Roane, and Clay were later added.

West Virginia American Water is urging customers not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing, or bathing.

“The water has been contaminated,” company President Jeff McIntyre said.

Tomblin said the advisory also extends to restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes and other establishments that use tap water.

If you feel sick, call the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or go to a local hospital.

The leak happened at Freedom Industries in Charleston. The chemical that leaked was 4-Mthylcyclohexane Methanol.

The material is hazardous but not believed to be lethal. The smell from the chemical is similar to licorice.

FEMA is working to bring clean (bottled) water into the area.

The Elk River flows into the Kanawha River in downtown Charleston. The Kanawha eventually flows into the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, about 55 miles to the northwest.

A chemical smell similar to licorice was detected in the air both outdoors and in areas where it had already reached the water supply on Thursday night.

The West Virginia Department of Education also notified school systems in the eight counties and said no decision was immediately made whether to call off classes Friday, spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said.

“The things we have to think about in schools are washing hands, but beyond that, making lunches,” she said. “At this point we’ve put those counties on standby. We will be back in touch with them. We’re going to … hold off for a little bit and see what happens.”

Story developing; check back for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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