President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for the state of West Virginia on Friday, ordering federal aid in the aftermath of a chemical spill that has left up to 300,000 people without tap water, closed schools and businesses.
The spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry, occurred Thursday on the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia’s capital and largest city, upriver from the eastern U.S. state’s largest water treatment plant.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties and health officials have advised residents to use tap water only for flushing toilets and fighting fires.
“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Gov. Tomblin said in a statement. “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes and schools.”