West Virginians Get Bottled Water After Chemical Spill

Supermarket shelves were emptied of bottled water after a chemical spill on the Elk River in West Virginia left hundreds of thousands of people without drinking supplies.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared an emergency in nine counties yesterday, urging residents to use tap water only for flushing toilets and fires. The governor said today the Obama administration approved his request for assistance after a chemical used in the coal-washing process spilled into water supplies.

The leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol along the Elk River in Charleston affected water supplied by West Virginia American Water Co., the company said on its website. The Associated Press reported the chemical came from a storage tank at a site run by Freedom Industries Inc. A spokeswoman for the closely held company had no immediate comment.

Water was being transported to the affected counties from a Federal Emergency Management Agency facility in Maryland, the Charleston Gazette reported. Residents swarmed grocery stores, convenience stores and other retailers selling bottled water after the order, the newspaper said.