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Officials silent on water timetable

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 50 hours after a chemical leak was first reported in the Elk River, there's still no indication as to when 300,000 Kanawha Valley residents will get drinking water back.

A "do not use" advisory remains in effect for eight counties and part of a ninth. Water can still not be consumed, or used for cooking, cleaning or washing dishes.

A representative for West Virginia American Water, whose customers are affected, did not return requests for comment Saturday morning.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office also did not respond to requests for comment Saturday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said that he had gotten no updates today on the water crisis, but he was not optimistic.

"I filled a bowl of water this morning and smelled it and it's still there," Jones said. "I think we need to prepare ourselves for the long haul."

At a news conference on Friday, the president of West Virginia American said that they could not guarantee the water was safe and that there was no timeline as to when water would be restored.

"We don't know that the water is not safe," President Jeff McIntyre said. "But I can't say that it is safe."

McIntyre emphasized that there was no timeline, declining to narrow down a window to hours, days or weeks.

The "do not use" advisory continues to apply to all West Virginia American customers in Boone, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties, as well as in the Culloden area of Cabell County.

Emergency officials around the state continued to work to supply bottled and trucked-in water to those areas.

Working together, federal, state and local officials, have set up water distribution sites across the affected counties.

An updated list of those sites is available here, although there have been reports that some sites were running out of water: http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201401100166

At a news conference Friday evening the president of Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the spill, said he did not know how much chemical spilled into the river, how it leaked or when the water might be usable again.

He also gave statements that were in conflict with state officials as to when the leak was discovered, when it was reported and what actions were immediately taken.

The chemical, known as "crude MCHM," is used in coal processing.

Freedom Industries, which distributes chemicals from locations in Nitro and Charleston, merged with three other companies on Dec. 31, 2013.

@tag:Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.

 

 


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