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.
Schools and restaurants closed, stores sold out of bottled water
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.
The state National Guard planned to distribute bottled water to emergency services agencies in the nine affected counties.
How much of the chemical spill, and the extent of the danger, remains unclear.
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