Photo: Drinking water
Around 300,000 inhabitants of nine counties in the state of West Virginia went their third straight day Saturday without being able to drink, bathe or cook with tap water due to a chemical spill in the Elk River, as the authorities distributed bottled water and urged people to remain calm.
The Department of Homeland Security sent a shipment of bottled water Friday night to 16 distribution centers in the area surrounding Charleston, the state capital, and locals can start picking up their supply on Saturday, the CNN network said.
The spill was detected on Thursday and came from a coal preparation plant of the Freedom Industries company on the banks of the Elk River in Charleston.
The river water, contaminated with the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, polluted a central water-treatment plant, forcing schools, courts, restaurants, hotels and other businesses to close their doors, while locals were buying up all the stocks of bottled water from an increasing number of supermarkets.
State Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared Thursday a state of emergency because of the spill.
Emergency rooms received around 1,000 phone calls in a matter of hours after the state of emergency was declared, though in many cases the patients had no symptoms and went to the hospital simply out of panic.
The president of the company responsible for the spill, Gary Southern, said Friday afternoon that, according to his estimates, around 5,000 gallons of the chemical had spilled from a container capable of holding 35,000 gallons.