DRY BRANCH, W.Va. (AP) – For Bonnie Wireman, the white plastic bag covering her kitchen faucet is a reminder that she can’t drink the water.
The 81-year-old woman says she’s angry about the chemical spill that’s deprived 300,000 West Virginians of clean tap water for four days.
But as quickly as she said it, she wanted to make one thing clear: She didn’t blame the coal or chemical industries for the spill.
Wireman says West Virginia needs those jobs and wants the state to do a better job of regulating them.
The current emergency began Thursday after a foaming agent used in coal processing escaped from a Freedom Industries plant in Charleston and seeped into the Elk River. Since then, residents have been ordered not to use tap water for anything but flushing toilets.
West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin says water tests are encouraging after the chemical spill tainted the supply, but people are still being told not to drink or bathe in the water.
Tomblin did not give a timetable Sunday for when people might be able to use the water again. But Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, of the West Virginia National Guard, did say that testing near the water treatment facility has consistently been below 1 part per million.
That’s a key step officials needed so that they can begin the next step of flushing the system.
About 300,000 people were told Thursday not to use the water after a chemical leaked from a plant into the Elk River and tainted the water supply.
Officials also announced Sunday that all public schools in four West Virginia counties will be closed Monday.
State Schools Superintendent James Phares says Boone, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties have cancelled classes at all schools.
H. E. White Elementary School in Clay County and Culloden Elementary School in Cabell County also will be closed.
Phares says schools in Jackson, Logan and Lincoln counties will be open.
West Virginia American Water has told customers in the nine counties to not use their tap water for drinking, bathing, cooking or washing clothes.
The University of Charleston has cancelled all activities at its main campus in Charleston until further notice.
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