West Virginia

Tim Kiser

In January, West Virginia’s Elk River was contaminated by a chemical spill from a nearby coal processing plant, affecting 300,000 local residents. People were without water for days. Now months later, is the water safe to drink? 

The mayor of Charleston, W.Va., says the company behind the chemical spill that essentially shut down his city for days was run by "a small of group of renegades," who in his opinion knew there were problems with the tanks that leaked dangerous chemicals into the city's water supply.

"I'm not even sure they cared what happened to the public," Danny Jones told Melissa Block on Tuesday's edition of All Things Considered.

Jones said he knows some of the people in charge of Freedom Industries and he considers them "to be a little edgy."

The map that shows residents of nine counties in West Virginia whether they can start using the water from their taps is slowly starting to change from red to blue.

That's good news because blue means customers in those areas can start flushing their homes' and businesses' pipes — and after that, start using their water again for cooking, cleaning and drinking.

Relief is finally arriving for the 300,000 or so people in nine West Virginia counties who haven't been able to drink, cook or clean with their tap water for more than four days.

Officials announced at noon Monday that tests show the level of a potentially harmful chemical have fallen to the point where the water can be turned back on. But, they cautioned that the process of bringing customers back on line will take several days and has to be done systematically.

The amount of a dangerous chemical in West Virginian's tap water is more diluted, but it is still unsafe for drinking, washing or bathing.

WCHS-TV reports that Col. Greg Grant with the National Guard told reporters that they are seeing readings of methylcyclohexane methanol dip below 1 part per million, the amount that the Center for Disease Control says is safe, but those readings have spiked from time to time.

"The numbers are turning in the right direction," Grant said.

(This post was last updated at 4 p.m. ET.)

For the third day in a row, hundreds of thousands of West Virginians are unable to drink, cook or wash with the water in their homes.

During a press conference, West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre, who oversees the states largest water treatment plant, said it could be days before the water is safe for use.

More than 100,000 customers of one water company in West Virginia have been warned not to drink, cook or wash with the water coming from their taps because of chemicals that seeped into the Elk River near Charleston on Thursday.