UPDATE 2/21/2014 5:00 PM
More than six weeks since the chemical spill in the Elk River, leaving 300,000 West Virginians with out water, some for up to a week.
And many still will not use the water, and there are lots of questions about the safety of the water.
Friday in Charleston the scientists handling the testing gave an update.
The state of West Virginia is still looking for answers.
And that's why last Tuesday Gov. Tomblin appointed $650,000 to a team of independent scientists and experts to go test the water in certain homes in West Virginia.
This team is lead by Dr. Andy Whelton and Jeffrey Rosen.
They, along with others, went to ten different homes in the affected areas.
They tested the tap water from the kitchen sink, to the bathroom, to the plumbing system - hot and cold water.
Dr. Andy Whelton says they spent four hours and the data they collected, that's what they were talking about Friday.
"We are currently awaiting the laboratory results and expect to receive them in one to three weeks. 90 water samples were obtained from each home visit, and a total of 900 water samples were collected during our ten home study," he says. "These results will be posted on the WV TAP website when available and we will use these results to then design a much larger study for the in home sampling project."
Dr. Whelton says he wants this information to be transparent for the people of West Virginia to know if their water is safe or not. He says that answer is far off.
They are hoping to conduct a larger study in the near future as this data comes in.
They are asking Gov. Tomblin for another $112,000 to complete that larger study.
Dr. Whelton says testing like this should have been done ten years ago.
They are dealing with something with no protocol, but their progress and research is promising.
UPDATE 2/14/2014 3:45 PM
A West Virginia business is accused of taking advantage of people during a time of crisis.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey files price gouging charges.
Morrisey says Hurricane-based Mid-Valley Mart LLC increased the price of water after last month's chemical spill in Charleston.
He says gallon jugs of water jumped from $1.59 to $3.39 at the company's two stores the day after the spill.
And the company is accused of charging one customer more than $40 for 12 one gallon jugs of water.
Morrisey says the company kept the prices inflated for at least a week.
He says businesses received fair warning that price gouging would not be tolerated in the wake of the spill.
"I tell you, to me it's just unconscionable that someone's gonna try to take advantage of our citizens during a time of an emergency, and especially after you get out and you tell people, you warn people that there's a price gouging law in effect and someone just chooses to ignore it," Morrisey says. "That's just not right and so I'm angry. I don't think that the West Virginia citizens deserve to have these bad apples ripping people off and that's why I'm going to take swift action"
As for the investigation into the spill itself, Morrisey says "revealing" information related to the safety of the water supply will be shared soon.
UPDATE 2/10/2014 2:05 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A federal safety official says tanks at the facility that spilled chemicals into 300,000 West Virginians' water supply were deemed "not necessarily" in compliance with standards months before the leak.
U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso told a congressional panel Monday that Freedom Industries ordered its own review of its tanks last October.
Environmental consultants found storage units at the Charleston location were "not necessarily" in full compliance with Environmental Protection Agency and industry standards.
Moure-Eraso also said the tank that spilled was rested on porous gravel and soil. A last resort containment wall wasn't lined and provided little protection.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is holding a hearing on the spill Monday in Charleston.
The chemicals that spilled were deemed "non-hazardous" and aren't regulated under federal law.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE 2/6/2014 11:10 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A federal health official says 300,000 West Virginians can use tap water however they like after January's chemical spill.
Dr. Tanja Popovic of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described the water Wednesday as "appropriate for use."
The Jan. 9 spill spurred a nine-county water-use ban for days. After officials cleared thousands of people to use water again, CDC officials advised pregnant women to consider a different water source.
Popovic said Wednesday the advisory was meant to "empower" pregnant women in health choices.
Dr. Rahul Gupta of Kanawha County said some doctors are advising children under 3, patients on dialysis or with kidney or liver failure, chronic conditions or low immune systems not to drink the water. Popovic said that advice doesn't conflict with CDC recommendations.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE 1/30/2014 4:20 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia House of Delegates is paving a long legislative road for new regulations on above-ground storage tanks.
But Speaker Tim Miley says his chamber isn't stalling the chemical spill-inspired bill.
Miley says giving the bill three committee stops doesn't mean it won't go anywhere. Often, assigning a bill many committees shows leadership isn't seriously considering it.
Miley says Senate Bill 373 could take longer in the House. A public hearing will take place in the House chamber Monday.
The Senate took 12 days to pass the bill from its introduction.
The bill proposes various regulations on storing fluids after the Jan. 9 chemical spill, which contaminated 300,000 people's water for days.
Miley also said manufacturing groups are concerned about regulations proposed for mobile tanks on railcars or trucks.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE 1/28/2014 11:00 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Senate plans to vote on whether to impose stronger regulations on above-ground storage tanks after a recent chemical spill in Charleston.
The proposal would require registrations and inspections for most surface-level storage units. Some exemptions exist for farms, water storage, propane and personal-sized tanks, stormwater and wastewater systems and other categories.
If the Senate passes the measure Tuesday, it would go to the House of Delegates.
The bill by Majority Leader John Unger responds to the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries spill, which contaminated 300,000 people's drinking water for days.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin supports the Senate push to regulate storage facilities.
Unger criticized an earlier bill by the governor for extending regulation only to facilities that could threaten public water systems. The two proposals are combined now.
UPDATE 1/24/2014 11:35 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The head of the Utility Workers Union of America is raising concerns that West Virginia American Water Co.'s leaky pipes may have allowed contaminated water from the Elk River chemical spill to seep into the ground.
D. Michael Langford wrote to the state Public Service Commission on Thursday to point out West Virginia American's high rate of "unaccounted for water."
According to West Virginia American's most recent annual report on file with regulators, it could not account for more than 28 percent of the water it pumped in 2012.
Media outlets report that that number is far above the 15 percent that's considered acceptable.
The company says it isn't testing groundwater following the Jan. 9 spill but that the water doesn't pose a risk to the public, animals or vegetation.
UPDATE 1/23/2014 2:35 PM
CINCINNATI (AP) - A water pollution control agency for the Ohio River says it will be difficult to tell if or when the chemical spill that contaminated West Virginians' water reaches the Mississippi River.
A model from the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission had predicted the spill would arrive Thursday at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, near Cairo, Ill. But the commission's manager of water resource assessment, Sam Dinkins, says chemical concentrations from the spill dropped below detection limits.
He says the compound was last detected near Louisville, Ky., about 380 miles upstream from the Mississippi River. He says water utilities farther downstream in Evansville, Ind., did not detect the spill.
A storage tank in Charleston, W.Va., leaked on Jan. 9, contaminating the water supply for 300,000 people.
UPDATE 1/22/2014 12:45 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia regulators ordered Freedom Industries to disclose everything that spilled when a storage tank leaked and contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people.
The Department of Environmental Protection gave the company until 4 p.m. Wednesday to provide the information.
The tank at Freedom's Charleston facility spilled a coal-cleaning chemical, Crude MCHM, on Jan. 9 in the Elk River.
The DEP says the company disclosed Tuesday that the tank also contained about 400 gallons of polglycol ethers, or PPH. The chemical is added to the Crude MCHM mixture.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman says in a news release that the delay in disclosing the second chemical is unacceptable.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday that initial tests didn't detect PPH in the water.
UPDATE 1/19/14 6:11 PM
After Freedom Industries Incorporated filed for bankruptcy Friday due to the chemical spill, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey speaks out tonight on the investigation.
State local officials are currently investigating the spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without water for four days.
The attorney general paid a visit today in Parkersburg to speak about how the investigation is being handled at this time.
"Over the past few days, our office has been focusing a great deal of time trying to get to the bottom of the water crisis. We want to know exactly what happened, why it happened, we want to know the time associated with all of the events and most importantly, we want to take steps to ensure that never happens again," says Attorney General Morrisey.
Morrisey also says that he's proud of how people in West Virginia and neighboring states came together and helped those affected during the water crisis.
UPDATE 1/17/2014 4:00 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The company blamed for a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water filed for bankruptcy.
Freedom Industries Inc. filed for bankruptcy Friday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.
Company president Gary Southern signed the paperwork.
The water was tainted after a chemical used to clean coal leaked from a storage tank and then a containment area at a facility owned by Freedom Industries.
The bankruptcy document says the leaky storage tank appears to have been pierced through its base by some sort of object.
It also says a current theory for the hole is that a local water line that broke near the Charleston plant could have made the ground beneath the storage tank freeze in the cold days before Thursday's spill.
UPDATE 1/17/2014 3:50 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Company blamed for chemical spill that tainted drinking water in W.Va. files for bankruptcy.
UPDATE 1/16/2014 10:50 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia American Water says another 12,200 customers affected by a chemical spill can flush their lines and begin using tap water again.
The company lifted a "do not use" order Thursday morning for customers in Culloden, Hamlin, Cross Lanes, Poca, Nitro and Boone County. That brings to 70,000 the number of customers for which the order has been removed.
The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health advises pregnant women not to drink the water until there are no longer detectable levels of the chemical.
About 100,000 customers in nine counties, or 300,000 people in all, were told not to drink, shower or wash clothes with tap water after a chemical used in coal processing spilled Jan. 9 in the Elk River in Charleston.
UPDATE 1/15/2014 10:00 AM
The spill caused major problems for central West Virginia.
It may also be a problem in balancing the state budget.
Delegate John Ellem says the shutdown of businesses in the state's largest city could be a further strain on tax revenues, which already have been below estimates for the first half of the year.
That's one issue lawmakers may have to deal with immediately, when they return to session.
"How much impact on an already tight budget is something to still be determined and something that could affect us," Ellem says. "It's going to take our attention away from other issues, at least initially."
The legislature's 2014 session was suspended just 24 hours after it convened last Wednesday, after Thursday's spill and the order not to use water in the area.
UPDATE 1/14/2014 5:52 PM
Tuesday morning, 35,000 customers lifted from the do not use ban from West Virginia American Water.
That means more than a third of customers can use their water again.
So far 800 samples have been tested.
Water availability and sample results determine what zones can be cleared.
External Affairs Manager, Laura Jordan said people should expect discoloration in lines anytime you flush a water system, which is due to corrosion in pipes and separate from the chemical spill.
Jordan said, "We can't predict right now how quickly different ares are going to be lifted because it's all based upon the water availability being produced here, as customers start flushing. We have to keep a close eye on that, to make sure there is enough water for customers to do their own flushing in their systems. It's also based upon geographic location, your elevation, and what pressure zone you're in."
Customers can check the companies website which is being updated in real time to see if their water is safe.
UPDATE 1/14/2014 11:00 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Speaker John Boehner is suggesting that the Obama administration needs to do a better job of enforcing safety regulations designed to protect the public against disasters like the chemical spill into West Virginia's drinking water supply.
The Ohio Republican tells reporters there already are enough safety and health regulations on the books. He says the Obama administration should be doing more and that d someone should be held accountable for the spill.
Congressional Republicans have sought to eliminate many federal regulations that the Ohio Republican says the GOP considers burdensome and cost jobs.
Last week's leak from a chemical storage facility into the Elk River tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians. Government regulators considered it low risk and it got scant attention from them.
UPDATE 1/13/2014 4:45 PM
Chemical plants, of course, are not limited to the Charleston area.
There are plenty right here at home.
Now local lawmakers are responding to the emergency south of us.
As one of them told us Monday, it's easy to look at this in hindsight.
But two Wood County legislators say they expect laws to come out of this session, to avoid a repeat of the Kanawha County leak.
Delegate John Ellem says there are calls for a task force to look into last week's massive spill.
He says possible legislation might include regulations for how far a chemical facility can be located from a water source and for more inspections.
But he notes, even the plant involved in this spill wasn't completely out of compliance.
"You will often see plants, like ours do locally, work with first responders and train in the event of an emergency." Ellem says. "They weren't completely under the radar. There was a submission under the Federal Emergency Management Act. And there was an awareness of what was kept there. However, they were not subject to inspection by the (Department of Environmental Protection)."
State Senator David Nohe says lawmakers might also look at more frequent visible inspections of chemical storage facilities.
Delegate Ellem says, however, any law passed has to include legislative oversight.
He's not sure there's been enough of an effort by the legislature to make sure laws already in effect are being followed.
UPDATE 1/13/2014 2:00 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A ban on tap water is 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.
Click on the link to the right to access the Kanawha Valley Water Safety Status Map.
UPDATE 1/13/2014 1:50 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The facility whose chemical spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians flew largely under the radar of government regulators who viewed it as a low-risk operation. But in reality, a problem at a key holding wall went undetected and unreported at Freedom Industries Inc.
The chemicals stored there aren't considered hazardous enough to prompt routine inspections. The storage terminal was a low priority for regulators. They must allocate scarce manpower.
The chemicals were stored behind a brick-and-concrete block dike that seems to have had structural problems. Regulators never visited it, but the company apparently was aware of the issue. A state official says the company president told regulators that Freedom had put $1 million into an escrow account to fix the wall that ultimately failed to hold Thursday's spill.
UPDATE 1/13/2014 10:30 AM
DRY BRANCH, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says water tests are encouraging after a chemical spill tainted the supply, but people are still being told not to drink or bathe in the water.
Tomblin did not give a timetable Sunday for when people might be able to use the water again. But Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, of the West Virginia National Guard, did say that testing near the water treatment facility has consistently been below 1 part per million.
That's a key step officials needed so that they can begin the next step of flushing the system.
About 300,000 people were told Thursday not to use the water after a chemical leaked from a plant into the Elk River and tainted the water supply.
UPDATE 1/10/2014 5:10 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia regulators ordered the shutdown of a Charleston company's operation where a chemical leak led to a cutoff in the region's water supply.
The Department of Environmental Protection issued a cease operations order Friday to Freedom Industries.
Thursday's chemical leak into the Elk River prompted Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to tell West Virginia American Water customers in all or parts of nine counties not to drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water.
The order requires the company to take the necessary steps to contain and recover the chemical that spilled and test its above-ground storage tanks and containment structures.
The order says prior to resuming operations, the company must submit a report for approval that documents the structures are reliable.
UPDATE 1/10/2014 5:00 PM
Jackson County is part of the state of emergency but as we reported Thursday night the water for Ravenswood and Ripley is safe.
Schools were closed there Friday and used as a water staging area
Although Ripley and Ravenswood water is safe Jackson County is still under a state of emergency and they are trying to help others.
The lower part of the county is where the Jackson County EMS director says people are impacted and they are setting up staging areas for people in the neighboring counties to come get water.
Schools all throughout the county were filling stations until the end of business hours Friday.
Closest to the Kanawha County line the National Guard dropped off bottled water Friday at Kenna Elementary School around 1 p.m. and the principal says there was a steady flow of people all afternoon, leaving only a third of the supplies left around just an hour after they arrived.
After hours and continuing in the the weekend people can go to the Southern Jackson Volunteer Fire Department in Kenna and Ripley Fire Department and the mayor of Ripley also offered the City of Ripley with any building that can supply water.
Officials throughout Ripley, Ravenswood and Kenna say the phones have been ringing off the hook.
A very busy day of people coming in for water because right now no one knows how long this will last.
The Jackson County EMS director compared this emergency to the derecho but he says just don't use the water and everyone will get through this.
It's about common sense, helping people out and being patient.
UPDATE 1/10/2014 4:35 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia American Water is warning customers about a hoax involving a chemical spill in Charleston.
The company says customers have reported receiving an automated call that claims it's shutting off water service.
West Virginia American Water says the call did not originate from it and the claim is false.
The company is asking people who have any information about the false call to report it to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered West Virginia Water customers in nine counties 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. Tomblin's order remains in effect.
UPDATE 1/10/2014 3:30 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A chemical spill in West Virginia that contaminated water supplies leads to at least half a dozen lawsuits.
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 1/10/2014 1:50 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - 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 1/10/2014 12:15 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The U.S. attorney in West Virginia says federal authorities are opening an investigation into what caused a chemical spill that tainted a river and shut down much of the state's capital city and surrounding counties.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a news release Friday that his office and other agencies will investigate the circumstances surrounding the release and determine what caused it. He says authorities will take whatever action is appropriate based on the evidence found.
The chemical, used in coal processing, spilled from a Freedom Industries plant into the Elk River in Charleston. Officials have ordered people not to drink, cook with or bathe in tap water, forcing people to scramble for bottled water.
How much of the chemical spill, and the extent of the danger, remains unclear.
UPDATE 1/10/2014 10:15 AM
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - A hotel in Huntington is offering free showers for people affected by a chemical spill in the Elk River in Charleston.
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 on Saturday so people can eat as well as shower. The buffet normally is closed on Saturday.
After the Thursday spill from Freedom Industries hit the river, 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.
Huntington isn't affected by the spill.
UPDATE 1/10/2014 10:10 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Schools 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 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.
The cause of the spill remains unclear.
UPDATE 1/09/2014 9:47PM
The state of emergency now covers nine WV counties.
They are Kanawha, Boone, Clay, Cabell, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane.
The governor released this statement:
"West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged NOT to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing," Governor Tomblin said. "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."
The Spencer Water Works in Roane county released a statement saying its water is safe.
Also, the WV Department of Health released the symptoms of severe exposure to 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol.
Symptoms include a severe burning throat, trouble breathing and vomiting.
The Department of Health recommends calling poison control immediately if someone living in the affected area, is suffering from those symptoms.
The number is 1-800-222-1222.
UPDATE 1/09/2014 7:32PM
The mayors of Ravenswood and Ripley in Jackson county tell WTAP News their water systems are safe, and not affected by the state of emergency issued by the governor's office.
Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader says the water is safe, as is any community served by the Ripley water system, which includes Fairplain.
Mayor Rader says only the extreme southern part of the county is affected.
She says the Governor's office says people affected are served by West Virginia American water in the southern part of the county.
UPDATE: 1/09/2014 7:00pm
Ravenswood mayor Michael Ihle says Ravenswood water customers are not affected by this & the city's water is safe.
He says Ravenswood water is separate from West Virginia American Water.
Ihle says WVAW does serve customers in the southern Jackson County area.
According to reports from our sister station WSAZ, the chemical involved in the spill is 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol. It is used in the coal preparation process.
West Virginia American Water believes the material is hazardous, but is not lethal in it's current form.
There is no estimated time when this will be repaired, according to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
West Virgina Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is declaring a state of emergency for 5 counties following a chemical leak in the Charleston.
The West Virginia Governor's Office is telling people in Jackson, Boone, Lincoln, and Putnam counties to NOT use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing.
Its due to a chemical leak in the Elk River.
Stay tuned to WTAP-TV and TheNewsCenter.TV for more information as it becomes available.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - State environmental officials are investigating a chemical spill into the Elk River in Charleston.
Media outlets report the chemical leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries and overran a containment area on Thursday. The amount that spilled isn't immediately known.
Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise says the chemical is used in the coal preparation process and isn't toxic.
Kanawha County Deputy Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman says the chemical gave off a strong licorice smell.
West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan says the chemical would be removed at a nearby water treatment plant and posed no threat to customers.
Freedom Industries provides specialty chemicals for the mining, cement and steel industries. A woman who answered the phone at the company said no one was available for comment Thursday.