Officials: Ban Still in Effect, Water Readings Improving

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UPDATE 1/12/14 @ 5:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The ban on water is still in effect for thousands of West Virginians, but once acceptable readings are found the ban will be lifted by zones.

Tests collected at 7 a.m. Sunday showed 0 parts per million (ppm) at the source of the leak.

"The numbers we're seeing look good and are very encouraging," Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said during Sunday's news conference. "The numbers we're seeing are trending in the right direction."

Hundreds of samples have been taken and sent to 10 labs in West Virginia and some have been flown to Ohio and Pennsylvania for readings.

Sampling conducted at the water treatment plant in Charleston within the last 24 hours have readings below the 1ppm, water officials announced. This allows the next step of sampling and testing to begin.

However, there's no timetable when the ban will be lifted. During the news conference West Virginia American Water President Jeffrey McIntyre said he couldn't predict when the ban would be lifted.

"I don't think we're several days from being able to lift the ban, but I'm not saying today," McIntyre said.

The ban will be lifted by zones, McIntyre said. West Virginia American Water will release an interactive map to allow customers to have a clear picture of their zone.

McIntrye says downtown Charleston will be the first zone to get the green light. Kanawha City will be the second zone followed by South Charleston. The first zone includes 25,000 West Virginia American customers.

The zones were selected in this order to get four major hospitals back to full operation.

The governor urges people affected by this emergency to be patient. He asked people not to jump ahead because state health officials have to make sure the water is safe.

WVAW will also launch a 24 hour hotline to help customers figure out their zone. McIntyre says this will not be a sophisticated phone line. There could be some delays because it was not set up for this type of call volume. Customers should not use this hotline for billing questions. Customer service representatives will only be able to answer zoning questions.

State Superintendent Dr. James Phares also attended Sunday's news conference to talk about schools closings in the area. Several have canceled classes Monday due to the water emergency.

Phares says schools in the nine counties affected by this emergency will have a protocol on how to flush out systems.

So far 10 people have been admitted to the hospital with symptoms from this chemical leak. None of them are in serious or critical condition. Another 169 have been treated and released from local hospitals.

The governor plans to work with the Department of Environmental Protection and lawmakers to make sure this type of emergency never happens again.

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UPDATE 1/12/14 @ 3:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The water ban remains in effect for more than 100,000 people.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is holding a news conference at 4:30 p.m. Sunday to update the water situation.

According to West Virginia American Water Company, as the system continues to be tested Sunday, the National Guard is assisting the Water Company with flushing the water lines.

Customers may experience low water or no water for a short period of time during this flushing process, according to a news release.

Laura Jordan with West Virginia American Water tells during this process, crews are opening hydrants to get samples. The crews started near the treatment plant and are now in the process of hitting the outlying areas of the system.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- In a press conference Saturday evening, the National Guard reported testing is showing the chemical is decreasing in the water, but the Governor Earl Ray Tomblin says the water ban is still in place.

Col. Greg Grant with the National Guard says MCHM is not a product they normally analyze in labs. He says they did not have protocols for this chemical and had to make new ones.

Greg says they have been working with the manufacturer of the chemical, Eastman Manufacturers, to produce a method for testing. It took about 24 hours to come up with that method.

Grant says it originally took 46 minutes to test a sample, but now that has been reduced to 18 minutes and they have worked out a much smoother process.

Before the water ban is lifted, Grant says they need 24 hours of testing to show the chemical under 1ppm. He says they are getting close. He says they have had .75 and .62 samples, followed by a 1.2 sample. He says these spikes can be caused by the weather or sludge in the system.

Grant says, "We are within the 24 hours."

Before the press conference, crews tested four fire hydrants. They say three of the tests gave results under 1ppm, but there was a spike with the fourth test.

Adjutant General James Hoyer says throughout the night and into tomorrow, they will take and test more than 100 samples.

Jeffrey McIntyre, President of West Virginia American Water, says the samples are a puzzle piece and they have to put them together.
Mike Dorsey with the DEP says they believe the reason the numbers are going down is that they believe less material is getting into the water. The have cut off the source, however, material is still in the soil.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin spoke at Saturday's press conference. He said, "We got through the Derecho and Sandy, and we'll get through this."

On the topic of the leak, Tombin said, "The chemical leak is unacceptable." The Governor said they do need to look at reporting requirements to make sure something like this does not happen again.

Dorsey says tanker trucks have moved chemicals at Freedom Industries to another site. They are not sure where the chemicals were moved. Dorsey says Freedom Industries is the responsible party and is responsible for the cleanup.

When the ok is given for residents to use the water, McIntyre says they will send out instructions for customers on how to flush their systems.

Karen Bowling with DHHR says county health departments are sharing resources to help businesses that have been shut down to reopen. Businesses can submit a plan to showing how they will provide potable water. That plan must be approve before they can reopen.

Jimmy Gianato says most stores in the affected area have been able to restock water and another shipping from FEMA is expected Sunday with 800,000 liters of water.

It has not been determined if schools will reopen on Monday. Officials say they plan to meet with the state superintendent Sunday to make that decision.

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