To clarify the event in West Virginia: the chemical release was UPSTREAM of the main water intake valve to the region’s water treatment plant. Therefore, the regional water supply was contaminated.
Since yesterday: The “Do Not Use” water order has been lifted from many customers, but as of the morning of 1/14/2014 about 74,000 customers still are being directed not to use the water. Those that can use their water are being told to properly flush their plumbing system prior to using water.
The Elk River flows into the Kanawha (an Ohio River tributary) upstream from Cincinnati, OH. The water treatment plant in Cincinnati is monitoring the situation and is prepared to shut down Ohio River intakes and supplement water from a different water treatment plant that would not be affected by the water contamination. Several other towns in Ohio and Kentucky are prepared to shut water intake from the Ohio River as a precaution.
So far, no fatalities are reported. 234 patients have been treated and released and at least 14 individual have been admitted. Many restaurants remain closed, but many have been approved to open once specific conditions are met. Schools are open in 5 out of the 9 counties affected.
The West Virginia Poison Center continues to receive calls from the public and healthcare professionals. The number of calls regarding the incident over the past 4 days is almost quintupled compared to their routine calls, which of course have continued!
This question prepared by: John G. Benitez, MD, MPH Medical Toxicologist
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Donna Seger, MD
Tennessee Poison Center
Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222