300,000 Residents Told to Avoid Contact With Water in W. Virginia

Officials update public on health risks of consuming tainted water in areas surrounding Charleston.
3:00 | 01/10/14

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Transcript for 300,000 Residents Told to Avoid Contact With Water in W. Virginia
This is a special room. -- company -- -- ABC news digital special report water in their homes too dangerous to drink 300000. People in West Virginia told. Not to drink not to cook not even to -- with their tap water nine counties in all under a state of emergency after a chemical spill in a major river. Schools and restaurants there are under a mandatory shut down and stores have already been cleaned out of water juice even -- The National Guard -- they are bringing in emergency supplies but you could take weeks to make sure the water supply there. It's safe to drink -- the dangerous chemical use is used to clean coal it causes irritation. In eyes and in -- officials are saying though it is not a lethal chemical though. And so now the folks in charge of the water treatment plant in Charleston are about to give an update on the latest alongside state -- county emergency officials. Or go down there as they are waiting to update everyone let's listen just. Before noon yesterday. The event we believe that started before that -- what we were not aware. We -- informed initially that there was a -- That was released into the river a flock to it is a product that we typically use and water treatment. So it didn't cause us any real concern when we heard that it was this product we examine the nature of the product. And we have an advanced treatment system here at the Charleston. Water treatment plant it's activated carbon. We also have the ability when there's river discharges. To add powder activated carbon. These these components have the ability to absorb chemicals. It is essentially the -- treatment process for this type of -- We started to see the material come into the plant in our treatment processes were effectively treating this material often -- -- 4 o'clock yesterday. At that time the older became apparent in the finished water. This material has a very strong black liberation holder or innocent -- whichever you for. To know -- -- The the response at that time was to contact the West Virginia bureau of public health and engage them in dialogue about actions that would be appropriate for this material. Obvious we still have no qualified. Amount we have run some tests and we can detect the material there is -- material present. -- we don't know how to qualify. Us so we didn't know yesterday how to quantify it. DuPont chemical incorporated overnight -- chemist worked to help us try to identify a standard method for analysis to be able to qualify. That message is now being rolled out to an army. National Guard unit that has. No -- lab that has you'll a lot of high priced equipment. That can analyze this and they're gonna start analyzing. Samples that we've been collecting. And we don't some of our own analysis but it's clear using using the wrong standard. Did not provide us the accuracy we need to know exactly the qualities that we're dealing. We're still trying to work with. Through the -- -- -- the company that manages the product -- manufactures the product. With their toxicologist. With physicians industrial hygienist. To try and understand the risk assessment component. Of this product so in other words what kind of quantities can be present in drinking water and not pose harm to our customers. We don't know that the water's not -- but I can't say. It is. Very few words I want to. This has been devastating to the public at large and to the people that -- city. It also is devastating to obviously just everyday commerce. We deal. In at least every business of every size. And it can you imagine checking in a hotel in Charleston west -- being -- -- you can't use the water. That would include -- hotels hospitals. And -- CB is giving. Lots -- car. And remembering. What what was supposed to do and that's gonna happen next I'd hoped to come this morning and found the -- run and -- it might. You we might find some resolution that we didn't do not personally appreciate -- the list of questions that came from. Folks because it help me understand what was going on but it. The folks -- that that just rocketed into the road and and and just regular citizens who have likened to -- we hope that that the resolution can be done some time soon. And that was the mayor of Charleston, West Virginia -- where they are doing right now with a chemical spill that it happened. Overnight earlier we heard from Jeff MacIntyre West Virginia American water company -- of the company doesn't know exactly the extent of this bill. That was noticed yesterday around noon or in -- how long it will take to clean up. The governor of our -- Tomlin of West Virginia issued this statement just a short time ago our emergency response team has worked to develop testing protocol sampling -- on the chemical issue. This process will take time but we continue to work quickly to provide information related to the ability. To -- we do not use order. Also overnight in water supplies have been relocated and begun to be distributed to affected areas. Continue to refrain from using the water for drinking cooking cleaning and Beijing and Washington do not boil this water or use it to supply oxygen. Machines again right now officials in West Virginia are -- with a chemical spill that it happened yesterday afternoon from a chemical that's used. In the coal mining process -- used to cleaner coal. And water treatment officials there were saying that they had noticed the smell from the water yesterday. And -- since issued that advisory for those people about a 300000 people. Among nine counties not to use -- the water either for drinking or bathing or for any -- -- -- except for toilet -- that is the advisory right now that has been declared. Also on the heels of a state of emergency being called for those areas affected. Approved by the president will continue to monitor the situation that news conference will be live -- right here on abcnews.com and of course complete recap as well throughout the day. For -- -- that's our New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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