Sunday 21 January 2018

Chemical spill hits water supply to 300,000 in US

Ice floes cover the surface of the Hudson River to the west of Midtown Manhattan in New York.
Ice floes cover the surface of the Hudson River to the west of Midtown Manhattan in New York.

Jon Swaine New York

Almost 300,000 people have been warned not to drink, bathe in or cook with their tap water after a serious chemical spill in west Virginia.

A state of emergency was declared in nine counties by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, following the leak of a coal processing substance into the Elk River at the state capital Charleston.

"The water has been contaminated," said Mr Tomblin. "West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing".

Up to 5,000 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a foaming agent used to wash coal before it goes to market, is thought to have leaked from a 48,000-gallon tank in a local firm's storage facility.

An unknown amount of this slipped through a barrier and into the ground, where it flowed into the river.

Officials said the chemical, which smells like liquorice, isn't toxic but harmful if swallowed. It can cause vomiting, breathing problems and irritation to skin, eyes and the digestive tract.


Schools were closed in some areas and bars were forced to turn away drinkers. Customers stripped bottled water, paper cups and bowls from the shelves of local shops following the announcement.

Some 50 people lined up to buy water at a grocery near the Charleston. "It was chaos," Danny Cardwell, a cashier said.

"Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools," Mr Tomblin said in a statement.

"I've been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible."

Meanwhile, a trick where boiling water is thrown in the air to instantly turn into snow in the bitingly cold US weather became a viral hit this week, as metereologists and TV reporters illustrated just how freezing the temperatures are in the polar vortex.

But now it seems Americans are feeling the backlash of the stunt after trying it themselves in the -30°F (-35°C) weather.

The 'LA Times' found that at least 50 people on social media complained that they or their friends were scalded by hot water on Monday and Tuesday.

Others have posted photos of their injuries on Instagram, and some have even mentioned visits to A&E to receive treatment for their burns.

St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri said on Tuesday it had treated two children for burns after trying the trick.

One person tweeted: "I just threw a pot of boiling water into the air to see if it would freeze and all I did was burn myself #Floridaproblems".

Another wrote: "So my brother decides to be cool and throw boiling water in the air and watch it freeze and ends up in the hospital with a 3rd degree burn."

And they weren't alone, with another saying: "While attempting to freeze boiling water, I managed to burn myself with the water instead of it freezing #fail" (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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