(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — Residents in nine counties in West Virginia are still being warned not to drink or use their water on Sunday after a chemical leaked into the Elk River Thursday.
MCHM — a chemical used to clean coal in coal processing plants — began leaking from a hole in a 48,000-gallon tank, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise told ABC News.
During a Sunday press conference, officials expressed optimism, saying that while the water ban was not being lifted, significant progress was being made in decontaminating the water supply.
The West Virginia American Water Company noted that its water supply had been contaminated on Thursday, prompting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to issue a State of Emergency for Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties. The University of Charleston decided on Sunday to shut down their Charleston campus until the water ban was ended.
According to Aluise, the backup system in place to prevent chemicals from leaking into the river failed, leading to the contamination of water throughout the region.
Aluise said the leak was contained by Friday. According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, 7,500 gallons of the chemical leaked into the water supply.
The foaming agent, while not toxic, is harmful if swallowed, warns Aluise.
In the meantime, the Federal Emergency Management Agency delivered one million liters of water to the Charleston area on Saturday to help residents affected by the spill.
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