Environment

Four People Hospitalized After West Virginia Chemical Spill

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

West Virginia authorities say 32 people sought treatment for symptoms possibly related to the chemical spill that contaminated the water supply of 300,000 residents Thursday. Only four were admitted, the Department of Health and Human Resources said Saturday.

Allison Adler of the Department of Health and Human Resources says the conditions of those patients are not immediately known.

For the last three days residents in 10 counties have banned from using tap water, after a chemical used to clean coal leaked from chemical plant Freedom Industries in Charleston and contaminated the public water treatment system.

How much of the chemical was leaked is not known. Federal authorities, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are investigating the spill.

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Freedom Industries was ordered Friday to remove the remaining chemicals from its above-ground tanks.

The company issued an apology to residents.

"We'd like to start by sincerely apologizing to the people in the affected counties of West Virginia," Freedom Industries President Gary Southern said. "Our friends and our neighbors, this incident is extremely unfortunate, unanticipated and we are very, very sorry for the disruptions to everybody's daily life this incident has caused."

Some residents took no comfort in the statement.

"Yeah, I understand that stuff can happen," said resident John Bonham, who also works in the chemical industry. "I don't think it's going to get him out of legal liability. OSHA is the one they're going to have to answer to."

The spill was declared a federal disaster overnight Thursday.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) says the Federal Emergency Management Agency and several companies are sending bottled water and other supplies to families. More than a dozen trucks carrying bottled water arrived Saturday morning.

"If you are low on bottled water, don't panic because help is on the way," Tomblin said.

Sources: Kansas City Star, MSN News