Archive for January 11th, 2014

A poison flows in West Virginia

January 11, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 11, 2014

Since Thursday evening, all or parts of nine West Virginia counties have been ordered not to use public water systems for anything but flushing toilets. The ban was issued after up to 5,000 gallons of methylcyclohexene methanol or 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, a chemical used to clean coal, leaked into the Elk River.

I’ve seen different estimates on how many people are affected by the contamination, but it seems to range from about 300,000 to 480,000 — 15 to 25 percent of the state’s population. Restaurants, schools and other businesses have had to close. Stores rapidly sold out of bottled water after the usage ban was issued. Authorities dispatched a small fleet of water tankers to the area and also made arrangements to distribute bottled water. 

It’s not yet clear how long it might take the river to dilute the chemical to levels that will be safe for drinking, washing and other normal uses. Read the rest of this entry »

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