By Ken Ward Jr., Kate White, David Gutman and Rachel Molenda
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four days after a coal-processing chemical leaked into the Elk River, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration and West Virginia American Water Company were once again unable to give a firm timeline for when water service would be restored to 300,000 residents in the Kanawha Valley.
A nine-county area of West Virginia is still under a “state of emergency,” with tap water not to be used for anything but flushing toilets and fighting fires, but test results “are trending in the right direction,” Tomblin said at a news conference Sunday night.
“I believe that we are at a point where we can say that we see light at the end of the tunnel,” Tomblin said.
Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American, said that he no longer believes they are “several days” from starting to lift the “do not use” order, but that the ban would not be lifted Sunday.
The leak affects the water system in parts of nine counties. All schools will be closed on Monday in four of those counties: Kanawha, Boone, Lincoln, Putnam. Select schools will be closed in Cabell and Clay counties.
State Superintendent Jim Phares said that he would be sending instructions to county superintendents on how to flush their water systems and clean any equipment and appliances that were in contact with contaminated water. He said county personnel would begin that process on Monday.
All government offices and the legislature will be open Monday, Tomblin said.
State officials said that test results are improving, but the water system still needs significant flushing.
Gen. James Hoyer said that National Guard teams directing the sampling of water at the treatment plant met their goal of not seeing any results with chemical concentrations of more than 1 part per million of the leaked chemical, “Crude MCHM,” for 24 hours.
Laura Jordan, spokeswoman for the water company, said Sunday night that flushing of the utility’s distribution system had begun. But, residents still needed to wait until instructed to begin cleaning out their home piping and appliances…