More West Virginians told tap water is safe; company files for bankruptcy

West Virginia mom afraid to drink water

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Story highlights

  • Freedom Industries files for bankruptcy protection
  • "Do not use" order lifted for thousands more West Virginia homes and businesses
  • More than 220,000 West Virginians affected by the spill are now cleared to use water
  • It's been eight days since a chemical spill contaminated water supplies

West Virginia authorities announced Friday that thousands more water customers have been given the green light to resume using tap water after a spill that contaminated supplies and put water safety in the national spotlight.

The end of the "do not use" order for residents in the West Virginia communities of Eskdale, Leewood, Ohley and Elkview means more than 220,000 of the approximately 300,000 people originally affected by the incident have been cleared to resume using tap water.

That number was further increased Friday afternoon, when all customers in the Kanawha Valley district were given the all-clear.

That's up from about 213,000 on Thursday.

The chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, got into water supplies after it leaked out of a storage tank and poured into the Elk River near an intake for a West Virginia American Water Co. treatment plant.

Is West Virginia water safe?

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Officials detected the 7,000-gallon leak eight days ago, on January 9. More than 7,000 gallons of the chemical, which is used to clean coal, leaked into the river, according to officials.

Freedom Industries, the company that owns the property from which the leak originated, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Friday, said Matt Hayes, clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Water officials say the amount of the chemical in the water has fallen to well under 1 part per million, the level deemed safe for consumption by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A later advisory suggested that pregnant women should continue to avoid drinking the water.

But concern lingers among many affected by the spill, some of whom say they will not drink the water out of fear that scientists know too little about the long-term effects of the chemical, which is not routinely tested for in water supplies.

"If a pregnant woman can't drink this ... no, we're not feeling safe here in West Virginia," Charleston resident Jacqueline Bevan said Thursday.