UPDATE: Some water bans in WV lifted, others still in place

CHARLESTON & LOGAN, Wv. (WYMT/WSAZ) - 1-14-14 Update:

The do not use water order has been lifted for the North Charleston customer zone, which includes customers in areas of North Charleston, West Side, Sissonville Drive and Big Chimney, according to information from West Virginia American Water.

Charleston, Kanawha City and South Charleston bans also were lifted Monday.

The lift of the ban in those four zones affects about 26,000 people.

WVAW spokesperson Laura Jordan said if there is any question about if a customer's water is safe, he or she should refer to usage maps provided by the company.

"The web map is the most accurate of all tools," Jordan said. "If there is a discrepancy, customers should rely on the map data."

The ban is being lifted in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system is not overwhelmed by excessive demand causing more water quality and service issues. Zones have been established based on the flow of water from the treatment plant through the system.

WVAW also released the following statement late Monday:

"After lifting the 'do not use' order for 26,000 customers today, the system needs time to settle so our operators can measure how it is reacting to the flushing activity. Therefore, we will not lift any additional zones tonight. we will provide updates on the next lift zone early Tuesday morning. Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation."

WVAW is communicating lift zones through an interactive website, as well as a hotline, which can be reached at 1-855-390-4569.

1-13-14 Update:

The ban on water is still in effect for thousands of West Virginians, but once acceptable readings are found the ban will be lifted by zones.

Tests collected at 7 a.m. Sunday showed 0 parts per million (ppm) at the source of the leak.

"The numbers we're seeing look good and are very encouraging," Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said during Sunday's news conference. "The numbers we're seeing are trending in the right direction."

Hundreds of samples have been taken and sent to 10 labs in West Virginia and some have been flown to Ohio and Pennsylvania for readings.

Sampling conducted at the water treatment plant in Charleston within the last 24 hours have readings below the 1ppm, water officials announced. This allows the next step of sampling and testing to begin.

However, there's no timetable when the ban will be lifted. During the news conference West Virginia American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre said he couldn't predict when the ban would be lifted.

"I don't think we're several days from being able to lift the ban, but I'm not saying today," McIntyre said.

The ban will be lifted by zones, McIntyre said. West Virginia American Water will release an interactive map to allow customers to have a clear picture of their zone.

McIntrye says downtown Charleston will be the first zone to get the green light. Kanawha City will be the second zone followed by South Charleston. The first zone includes 25,000 West Virginia American customers.

The zones were selected in this order to get four major hospitals back to full operation.

The governor urges people affected by this emergency to be patient. He asked people not to jump ahead because state health officials have to make sure the water is safe.

WVAW will also launch a 24 hour hotline to help customers figure out their zone. McIntyre says this will not be a sophisticated phone line. There could be some delays because it was not set up for this type of call volume. Customers should not use this hotline for billing questions. Customer service representatives will only be able to answer zoning questions.

State Superintendent Dr. James Phares also attended Sunday's news conference to talk about schools closings in the area. Several have canceled classes Monday due to the water emergency.

Phares says schools in the nine counties affected by this emergency will have a protocol on how to flush out systems.

So far 10 people have been admitted to the hospital with symptoms from this chemical leak. None of them are in serious or critical condition. Another 169 have been treated and released from local hospitals.

The governor plans to work with the Department of Environmental Protection and lawmakers to make sure this type of emergency never happens again.

8am Update:

The White House has issued a federal disaster declaration in West Virginia, where a chemical spill that may have contaminated tap water has prompted officials to tell residents in nine counties not to bathe, brush their teeth or wash their clothes.

Bill Hines, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says the declaration, made early Friday morning, allows for direct federal assistance in dealing with the spill.

Original story:

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced early Friday morning that the White House has approved a federal emergency declaration to assist with the emergency water situation in nine West Virginia counties.

Governor Tomblin declared a state of emergency Thursday evening after a chemical leak in Charleston. 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 and Reamer Hill are also impacted by the advisory.

Logan County 911 Director Marilyn Triplett Crosby says, "There is only a small area in Logan County affected by the water issue also....just a few communities that border Boone County and get their water from Boone County. They are Sharples, Clothier, Coal Valley, Mifflin, Dobra, and Monclo.

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 reports all permit holders in both counties, including daycares, universities, restaurants, and schools need to shut down.

Julie Miller with the Boone County Health Department says restaurants are also closing in the county.

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.

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 WSAZ.com 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 says 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.

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