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W.Va. water tests encouraging after chemical spill

January 12, 2014 • National News


The GeStamp Stamping Plant-South Charleston (W.Va.) is one of several distribution locations open Sunday morning, Jan. 12, 2014 so local residents can pick up bottled water and fill containers after a chemical spill Thursday in the Elk River that has contaminated the public water supply in nine counties. Frustration is mounting for many of the 300,000 West Virginia residents who’ve gone three days without clean tap water..This location will remain open 24-hours a day until the ban on using tap water for drinking and washing is lifted. (AP Photo Michael Switzer)

DRY BRANCH, W.Va. (AP) — 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.

The widow of a coal miner, Wireman was angered about the chemical spill that’s deprived 300,000 West Virginians of clean tap water for four days, but doesn’t blame the coal or chemical industries.

“I hope this doesn’t hurt coal,” said Wireman, who lives in an area known as Chemical Valley because of all the plants nearby. “Too many West Virginians depend on coal and chemicals. We need those jobs.”

And that’s the dilemma for many West Virginians: The industries provide thousands of good paying jobs but also pose risks for the communities surrounding them, such as the chemical spill or coal mine disasters. The current emergency began Thursday after a foaming agent used in coal processing escaped from a Freedom Industries plant in Charleston and seeped into the Elk River. Since then, residents have been ordered not to use tap water for anything but flushing toilets.

Gov. Earl Tomblin said Sunday water tests were encouraging, but he didn’t give a timetable for when people might be able to use water again.

“The numbers look good. They are very encouraging,” Tomblin said.

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