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Water's Back On For Just About Everyone In West Virginia

The do-not-use advisory has been lifted for nearly all water users in the nine counties of West Virginia where a chemical spill last week left about 300,000 people unable to use what was coming out of their taps.

At midday Friday, West Virginia American Water turned its online "water safety safety map" all blue. The absence of any red areas means it's OK to begin the multi-step process of flushing pipes to remove any remaining tainted water and then start using the water again.

The company does note, however, that "customers in the towns of Buffalo, Frazier's Bottom and Pliny are advised to not drink and have limited contact with their water. New water sampling results indicate additional flushing and sampling is required in this area until water quality sampling data can be verified." Also, some customers are still being urged to boil their water, and pregnant women have been urged "out of an abundance of caution" to continue drinking only bottled water.

On Jan. 9, as we've reported, a chemical used in coal processing leaked into the Elk River near Charleston and then into the region's water supply system. Residents and businesses across the nine counties were warned not to use the water coming from their taps because the chemical — methylcyclohexene methanol — can cause severe burning in the throat, vomiting and skin blistering.

The state and federal governments declared a state of emergency in the area.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.