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PHOTOS: What It Looks Like When A Massive Chemical Spill Contaminates The Water Supply

By Kiley Kroh on January 11, 2014 at 10:46 am

"PHOTOS: What It Looks Like When A Massive Chemical Spill Contaminates The Water Supply"

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Empty shelves at a local Foodland between Freedom Industries and American Water.

Empty shelves at a local Foodland between Freedom Industries and American Water.

CREDIT: Foo Conner/@iwasaround

On Thursday morning, a chemical spill was detected at Freedom Industries’ storage facility near the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia, just upstream from a water treatment facility. The chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (crude MCHM), is used in coal production and can cause “severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.” A state of emergency was declared and more than 300,000 people ordered not to use or consume their water for anything other than flushing toilets.

The contaminated water cannot be treated and at a Friday evening press conference, Freedom Industries President Gary Southern could not confirm the amount of the chemical that spilled into the water, which is distributed to a 1,500 mile area, nor when it began leaking. With no timeline for lifting the water use ban, West Virginians were thrown into a water crisis — after chaotic scenes at local stores cleared the shelves of bottled water, police were called in to guard the water delivery at a local Wal-Mart, and the National Guard oversaw water distribution at the state capitol.

Here’s a look at Charleston amidst the crisis:

An environmental enforcement boat patrols in front of the chemical spill at Freedom Industries.

An environmental enforcement boat patrols in front of the chemical spill at Freedom Industries.

CREDIT: Foo Conner/@iwasaround

Local coffee shop and bookstore closed due to the water ban.

Local coffee shop and bookstore closed due to the water ban.

CREDIT: Foo Conner/@iwasaround

Freedom Industries avoided speaking with the press until Friday evening.

Freedom Industries avoided speaking with the press until Friday evening.

CREDIT: Foo Conner/@iwasaround

One local establishment advertises that they still have water.

One local establishment advertises that they still have water.

CREDIT: Foo Conner/@iwasaround

Residents share water obtained from a distribution point.

Residents share water obtained from a distribution point.

CREDIT: Foo Conner/@iwasaround

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Chemical Leak Into West Virginia River Far Larger Than Previously Estimated

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