Water emergency remains in effect in Boone County

Fred Pace

January 10, 2014

BOONE COUNTY – Residents of Boone County are very concerned and have many questions about their water after it was learned that a chemical spill into the Elk River in Kanawha County had affected Boone County’s water supply and caused Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to issue a “State of Emergency” for Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties.

“This declaration follows a notice from West Virginia American Water Company that its water supply had become contaminated,” the governor said. “Residents served by Lincoln PSD, Queen Shoals PSD, Reamer PSD, City of Culloden PSD, and City of Hurricane PSD are also affected.”

“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged NOT to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Tomblin added. “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible.”

Boone County officials said that two truckloads of water are on their way to the county’s maintenance garage, located just across the street from the Boone County Courthouse in Madison sometime after noon today.

“We were not give an exact time,” said Pam White, with the Boone County Commission. “We were told it would be sometime after noon.”

Some residents say they are driving to areas not serviced by West Virginia American Water to get water and trying to find stores outside the region that may still have water for sale. After water emergency was known, residents rushed to purchase water and local stores quickly sold out.

White said those seeking water and wanting to know when the water will be safe again to use have bombarded the county with calls.

At a press conference in Charleston at West Virginia American Water, officials said there was no time line on when it would be safe to use the water.

“We just don’t know at this point,” Jerry McIntyre, President of West Virginia American Water. “I can not tell you that the water is not safe, but I can not tell you the water is safe.”

The water is currently being tested in labs.

The Town of Danville will have a container truck with available water at the Danville Community Center, but you must bring your own container to fill. They also have some cases of bottled water.

“You can get up to three gallons or 1 case of water per person,” a town official said. “We are supposed to be getting more water, but it will not be until sometime this afternoon.”

Several businesses have closed down due to the water emergency. Schools were also closed as well as many other organizations.

Julie Miller with the Boone County Health Department says restaurants are also closing in the county.

Some residents have wondered what to do if they have already used the water? The West Virginia DHHR says symptoms that could happen from using the contaminated water include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, and trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.

Homeland Security says if you feel sick, seek medical attention at a local hospital or call poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Water company and local and state government officials called this water disaster “unprecedented.”

Water should be coming to the distribution centers in Madison and Danville.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged West Virginians to report any business or individual who dramatically increases the price of water, ice or other essential consumer goods in response to the water emergency.

“It is illegal for any person or entity to inflate the price of water in times of emergency,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We are hearing reports of price gouging going on already in the region. It is illegal and just plain wrong for a business to take advantage of consumers and West Virginians during an emergency.”

Morrisey encouraged anyone who has been charged overly inflated prices to file a complaint with the office’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808.

All reports filed will be used by the Office to identify offending businesses and people. Consumers who paid high prices should make a copy of the receipt, if they still have it, and attach the copy to their complaint.

“While our hope is that these incidences are rare, they do sometimes occur,” Morrisey said. “In those situations, we will aggressively prosecute anyone who has taken advantage of West Virginians in their time of need. We will have no mercy for businesses who try to make a quick buck by taking advantage of people.”

Tomblin said the “State of Emergency” remains in the affected counties.

He said dispatched the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to Freedom Industries yesterday, ordering it to halt further leaching of the particular chemical into the river.

“Our emergency response team has worked to develop a testing protocol and a sampling plan on the chemical at issue. Initial samples have been taken, and additional sampling and testing will continue throughout the situation,” Tomblin said. “The sampling plan is a coordinated effort with West Virginia American Water Company and the state Bureau of Public Health, and our emergency responders. This process will take time, but we continue to work quickly to provide information related to the ability to lift the “do not use” ordered by West Virginia American Water Company. Also overnight, water supplies have been relocated and have begun to be distributed to affected areas. Please call your local emergency service office to locate the closest distribution point for your area. Continue to refrain from using the water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and washing. Do not boil this water or use it to supply oxygen machines.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller today released the following statement:

“I am deeply troubled by yesterday’s chemical spill at the Freedom Industries plant in Charleston and concerned about the problems it is causing thousands of West Virginians across nine counties. First and foremost, the safety of our citizens is my priority, so I urge everyone in the contaminated areas to remain vigilant and follow directions from emergency personnel about the use of running water.

“Along with those at the highest levels of our federal and state government, I am closely monitoring the response. I urge all officials involved to do whatever it takes, and leave no resource on the table, so that this situation can be quickly resolved for the sake of our families our precious water supply.

“I commend Governor Tomblin for requesting a State of Emergency, West Virginia Division of Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato for coordinating the response and the White House for moving swiftly in granting the governor’s request. Once all of the impacted counties and residents are able to return to a semblance of normalcy, I expect a full accounting of what happened — and what can be done — to make sure this type of disaster never happens again. And we must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to restore the Elk River and its tributaries.

“As West Virginians, we know how to come together during the most difficult times. We check in on elderly neighbors. We make sure our friends and family are safe. We embrace each other in the tough moments. And that is what we must do now.”

“Our efforts will continue until we have a resolution. Our main focus continues to center around our hospitals, nursing homes and those most vulnerable.

I will continue to keep our citizens updated as we gather additional information.”

United States Attorney Booth Goodwin today issued the following statement regarding yesterday’s release of a potentially dangerous chemical into the southern West Virginia water supply:

“Yesterday’s release of a potentially dangerous chemical into our water supply has put hundreds of thousands of West Virginians at risk, severely disrupted our region’s economy, and upended people’s daily lives. My office and other federal law enforcement authorities have opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the release. We will determine what caused it and take whatever action is appropriate based on the evidence we uncover.”

Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is urging West Virginians who are solicited to make donations to a charity during the water emergency to make sure the organization is registered to do so.

“Any time there is an emergency, West Virginians come together,” Secretary Tennant said. “Emergency workers and National Guard members are out there protecting us and making sure people have what they need, and we all owe them our thanks. And each of us does what we can to help, and a lot of times that means making a donation to a charity. But there are people out there who take advantage of our generosity.”

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office maintains a database of thousands of charities that are registered to solicit donations and lists how they disbursed their funds.

“Our database gives people the information they need to arm themselves against scams,” Secretary Tennant said.

The database can be accessed by visiting the Secretary of State’s Office website at and clicking the “Wise Charitable Giving” link at the top of the page.

Secretary Tennant said citizens should “BEWARE,” and watch for these warning signs of a potentially fraudulent charity:

- Bills or invoices are sent to you even though you never pledged money to the organization.

- Evasive, vague, or unresponsive answers to specific questions about the charity and how the money is used.

- Words making up a charity’s name that closely resemble a better-known charity.

- Allowing you no time to reconsider your pledge; they insist on collecting your money immediately.

- Refusal to answer questions about where your money will go or refusal to send more information about the charity.

- Emotional appeals and high-pressure tactics to get you to make a quick donation, or they make you feel guilty if you do not wish to contribute.

Secretary Tennant also suggests writing down the exact name of the charity when you are contacted and to ask if a fundraising company is paying the caller.

If a citizen believes they have been contacted by a fraudulent charity, they are urged to contact the Secretary of State’s Office immediately at 304-558-6000.

“I urge all of our citizens who live in the affected areas to remain calm and follow the instructions coming from health officials and emergency crews,” Secretary Tennant said. “This is a very difficult time for this region, because for the time being we cannot depend on a steady and safe supply of a precious resource. I also urge everyone who lives in these areas to share their water with their neighbors if they have any to spare, and check on elderly family members and neighbors. West Virginians care about each other, and I am confident that our compassion will show once again as we all face a very trying time together.”