Early Thursday, a chemical spill along West Virginia’s Elk River contaminated the tap water of as many as 300,000 West Virginia residents across nine West Virginia counties. The chemical spill occurred at a storage facility for Freedom Industries less than two miles from a major water treatment plant.
Freedom Industries produces chemicals that are used widely in mining and steel production.
The leaking storage tank contained the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol which is used to “treat” coal supplies before they are shipped for burning. According to ThinkProgress, the chemical “severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.”
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), between 2,000 and 5,000 gallons of the toxic chemical made its way into the water supply.
Residents in the area were immediately warned to stop using tap water, out of fear that the chemicals could severely harm anyone who consumed them. Chemical levels have fallen in the two days since the spill, but the ban remains in effect as the levels in the water are still far too dangerous for residents.
As of Friday, according to The Guardian, at least 670 people had called into the poison control center with reports of vomiting, nausea, skin irritation, and other symptoms.