Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Chemical spill brings W.Va. capital to standstill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A chemical spill left the water for 300,000 people in and around West Virginia’s capital city stained blue-green and smelling like licorice, with officials saying Friday it was unclear when it might be safe again to even take showers and do laundry.

Federal authorities began investigating how the foaming agent escaped a chemical plant and seeped into the Elk River. Just how much of the chemical leaked into the river was not yet known.

Officials are working with the company that makes the chemical to determine how much can be in the water without it posing harm to residents, said West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre.

“We don’t know that the water’s not safe. But I can’t say that it is safe,” McIntyre said Friday. For now, there is no way to treat the tainted water aside from flushing the system until it’s in low enough concentrations to be safe, a process that could take days.

Officials and experts said the chemical, even in its most concentrated form, isn’t deadly. However, people across nine counties were they shouldn’t even wash their clothes in water affected, as the compound can cause symptoms ranging from skin irritation and rashes to vomiting and diarrhea.

No more than six people have been brought into emergency rooms with symptoms that may stem from the chemical, and none were in serious or critical condition, said State Department of Health & Human Resources Secretary Karen L. Bowling.

The company where the leak occurred, Freedom Industries, discovered Thursday morning around 10:30 a.m. that the chemical was leaking from the bottom of a storage tank, said its president Gary Southern. Southern said the company worked all day and through the night to remove the chemical from the site and take it elsewhere. Vacuum trucks were used to remove the chemical from the ground at the site.

“We have the mitigated the risk, we believe, in terms of further material leaving this facility,” he said.

Southern said he didn’t think the chemical posed a public danger. He also said the company didn’t know how much leaked.

He also said more than once that it had been a “long day” for him and others at the company. After six minutes, Southern attempted to leave the news conference but was asked more questions.

“Look guys. It has been an extremely long day,” Southern said. “I have trouble talking at the moment. I would appreciate if we could wrap this thing up.”

The news conference ended a few minutes after that.

State officials started investigating Thursday when people complained about an odor coming from near the company’s river terminal. Inspectors found a leaking above-ground tank at the site just after 11 a.m. and realized that no one was trying to contain the spill, according to officials at the Department of Environmental Protection. The chemical was seeping through a containment dike, a backup intended to catch spills.

The spill brought West Virginia’s most populous city and nearby areas to a virtual standstill, closing schools and offices and even forcing the Legislature to cancel its business for the day. Officials focused on getting water to people who needed it, particularly the elderly and disabled.

“If you are low on bottled water, don’t panic because help is on the way,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said at a news conference Friday afternoon. The governor said there was no shortage of bottled water, and that officials were working to get water to those who need it. At least one charity was collecting donations of bottled water, baby wipes, plastic utensils and other items for people unable to use tap water.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also planned to deliver more than a million liters of water from nearby Maryland. Several companies were sending bottled water and other supplies, including Pepsi and the Coca-Cola Co., Tomblin said.

However, it appeared that some level of panic already had set in to some degree. At the Kroger grocery store in the shadow of a DuPont plant along the Kanawha River, people scrambled in the aisles to find bottled water, only to learn the store had been out since early Friday.

Robert Stiver was unable to find water at that store after trying at least a dozen others in the area and worried about how he’d make sure his cats had drinkable water. The water at his home had a blue tint and smelled like licorice, he said.

“I’m lucky. I can get out and look for water. But what about the elderly? They can’t get out. They need someone to help them,” he said.

That’s what 59-year-old Dan Scott was doing: Taking care of his 81-year-old mother, Bonnie Wireman, and others in the area.

“She takes everything to heart. She forgot a few times and stuck her hand in the kitchen sink. When she realized what she did, she took out alcohol and washed her hands. Scrubbed them. She was really scared,” he said.

Inside Kroger, there were signs that the chemical spills had affected business. Anything that used water – from the deli counter to the produce section – was either closed or had a limited supply.

Outside the restrooms, a handmade sign told the story: Because of a chemical spill in the Elk River, the store was advising people not to use the water fountain. The bathroom sinks were wrapped in plastic.

Freedom Industries was ordered to stop storing chemicals in areas where they could flow into the containment dike that failed in Thursday’s leak, said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise.

The tank that leaked holds at least 40,000 gallons, Aluise said, though officials believe no more than 5,000 gallons leaked from the tank. Some of that was contained before escaping into the river, he said.

The company was already cited for causing air pollution stemming from the odor first reported Thursday, Aluise said.

The primary component in the foaming agent that leaked is the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. The agent is mixed with ground-up coal to separate it from soil and rock particles, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute. After the coal is cleansed, the leftover mixtures of chemicals and mud are piped to slurry ponds, where much of the chemical mixture is stored until re-used.

The chemical is water-soluble, meaning it cannot be removed with surface booms that are sometimes effective in capturing spilled oil.

The chemical evaporates easily, which explains the smell that many people reported, said Capt. Larry Cseh, environmental health scientist with the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

The West Virginia National Guard has been running hourly tests on the chemical’s concentration since Thursday night. A safe level is 1 part per million. The level has dropped from 2 to 1.7 parts per million, said Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, Adjutant General of West Virginia.

At 0.1 parts per million, the licorice smell and green tint would disappear from the water, Hoyer said.

Even at its current concentrations, however, the chemical is unlikely to cause any serious harm, Ziemkiewicz said.

“You’d have to drink something like 1,700 gallons of water to even approach a lethal dose,” he said. If a person drank a glass or two of tainted water, “I would be astonished if that caused any serious problems.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
Review set for $2M pizza case in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Cherokee Nation to offer photo IDs at Rush Ranch

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3

 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Accused machete attacker testifies in trial

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

All Things Art Festival organizers seek artists, vendors

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Mother’s Day fair returns to Suisun waterfront

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
Report: Shots fired from car on Clay Bank Road

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A5

Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9