West Virginia Water, A chemical spill into a West Virginia river has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.
The federal government joined West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in declaring a disaster as the West Virginia National Guard arranged to dispense bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the counties hit by the chemical spill into the Elk River.
The advisory was expanded at night to nine counties and includes West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.
It followed a notice from the West Virginia American Water Company that its water supply had become contaminated, sending a strange licorice-like smell wafting through the surrounding streets.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources told NBC affiliate WSAZ symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.
Once word got out about the governor’s declaration, customers stripped store shelves in many areas of items such as bottled water, paper cups and bowls. As many as 50 customers had flooded a convenience store near the state Capitol in Charleston to purchase water.
“It was chaos, that’s what it was,” cashier Danny Cardwell told The Associated Press.