It could be days until residents in Charleston, WV, receive safe tap water after a chemical spill in the Elk River.
Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, said that officials had set up four labs to test the amount of chemical in the water, but that it might take days to provide enough samples to determine whether the water was safe.
A team from the Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents, will arrive on Monday to begin looking into the spill, the board said on Saturday.
“Our goal is to find out what happened to allow a leak of such magnitude to occur and to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place to prevent a similar incident from occurring,” said Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman of the safety board.
State officials said as much as 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked into the river on Thursday. Residents have not been able to shower or use any tap water to drink, and the local schools and businesses are closed. In order for a business to reopen it must submit a plan to officials for obtaining clean drinking water.
FEMA stepped in and provided 75 trailers with 370,000 gallons of water:
On Saturday, local officials were distributing clean water at fire stations, a high school, and a pizzeria. FEMA planned to bring about 211,000 more gallons of water to the region on Saturday, and an additional 211,000 on Sunday.
In Charleston, residents were looking for clean water wherever they could find it. A fire station planned to have a water giveaway on the city’s west side on Saturday afternoon, saying that a local businessman had collected hundreds of cases of bottled water and nearly 100 gallons of spring water. A fire department in a nearby town opened a water distribution center specifically for livestock, and a local Y.M.C.A. offered residents showers.
The chemical is used in coal processing and smells like licorice. 122 people went to the hospital and five were admitted. Their symptoms were nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes, and reddened skin.