By Shay Maunz and Marcus Constantino
Charleston Daily Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Three schools in Charleston closed early Thursday after chemical odors were detected in the schools’ tap water.
Overbrook Elementary in South Hills closed at noon. West Side schools Watts Elementary and J.E. Robins Elementary dismissed at 11:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.
Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said the schools were closed because of a licorice-like odor that was detected in the water supply, the telltale sign of crude MCHM. It was first reported at the J.E. Robins in the school’s kitchen.
At Watts it was in a kindergarten classroom. At Overbrook the smell was faint but in the hot water at several locations.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said the county received complaints from 14 schools in all. The other complaints came later in the day, he said, referring further comment to Duerring.
Duerring said a J.E. Robins cook’s eyes were reportedly burning after using a dishwasher. The symptom is another indicator of contact with crude MCHM, the coal-cleaning chemical that Freedom Industries spilled into the Elk River last month, contaminating tap water for some 300,000 West Virginians.
The decision to close the schools Thursday was made out of an “abundance of caution, ” state Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said.
“Parents are anxious and apprehensive and rightfully so,” she said. “Because of that, (Kanawha County Schools) is trying to do all that they can.”
Cordeiro said the other complaints came too late in the day to close school early.