Thousands Without Water After Spill in West Virginia

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“CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As 300,000 people awoke on Friday to learn that their tap water was unsafe for brushing teeth, brewing coffee or showering, residents and businesses expressed a mix of anger and anxiety in coping with an industrial accident with no clear end in sight.

Schools were closed, restaurants locked their doors and hotels refused reservations. Store shelves were quickly stripped of bottled water, and traffic snarled as drivers waited to fill jugs from tankers delivered by the National Guard.

“It’s worrying me so much I’m having chest pains,” said Cookie Lilly, 71, who waited with her husband to get a ration of four gallons of water at the South Charleston Community Center.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who ordered the ban on drinking, bathing and cooking with tap water in Charleston, the state capital, and nine surrounding counties, called on people not to panic.

“Help is on the way,” he said in a statement. “There is no shortage of bottled water. Supplies are moving into the area as we speak.”

Asked at a news conference about his “personal hygiene,” the governor sought a touch of levity. “It would be great to hop in a hot shower, but we’ll get through it,” he said. “We’re tough West Virginians.”

Mayor Danny Jones of Charleston said the do-not-drink order was strangling businesses. “You can’t imagine what it’s like to function like this, or not function like this,” he said, speaking as he drove home on Friday evening in uncommonly light traffic and passed a mall he said was nearly deserted.

The mayor and everyone else said their greatest worry was that no one in authority would say how long it would be before the water supply was potable again.

Officials said that up to 5,000 gallons of an industrial chemical used in coal processing seeped from a ruptured storage tank into the Elk River, just upstream of the intake pipes for the regional water company.

Authorities struggled to determine how much danger the little-known chemical, MCHM, or 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, posed.”

Read more: New York Times

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