CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Downtown businesses and restaurants reopened Tuesday following last week's chemical spill, but people in and outside the city limits waited yet another day for officials to tell them their tap water was safe.
So far, about 35 percent of West Virginia American Water's customers have been allowed to use their water again after a chemical spilled into the Elk River on Thursday. The emergency closed schools, restaurants and businesses because they, along with about 300,000 residents, were told not to drink, shower or even wash clothes with the contaminated water.
Matthew Davis said his neighborhood was still waiting for the ban to be lifted. After rinsing off at a nearby creek last week, he finally enjoyed a hot shower Tuesday at his fiancee's house 30 minutes away.
Davis, 21, had his wisdom teeth removed just before the water ban.
"Pretty much all I had was Coke, and that hurt," Davis said.
Officials cautioned that even water that was deemed safe may still have a slight licorice-type odor, raising the anxieties of some.
"I wouldn't drink it for a while. I'm skeptical about it," said Wanda Blake, a cashier in the electronics section of a Charleston Kmart who fears she was exposed to the tainted water before she got word of the spill. "I know I've ingested it."
Water distribution stations continued to hand out water and the water company said it could be days before the entire system is back. Officials lifted the ban in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system was not overwhelmed.
The water crisis started Thursday when a chemical used in coal processing leaked from a Freedom Industries plant into the nearby Elk River.
Complaints came in to West Virginia American Water about an odor and officials discovered the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol was leaking out of a 40,000-gallon tank.
Federal authorities, including the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, have opened an investigation.
Only 14 people exposed to the contaminated water were admitted to the hospital, and none were in serious condition.
Associated Press writers Pam Ramsey, Brendan Farrington, Mitch Weiss and Dylan Lovan contributed to this report.
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