ENVIRONMENT

West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin: 'It's Your Decision' To Drink The Water Or Not

CORRECTS STATE TO W.VA. INSTEAD OF VA. - West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, speaks during a press conference concerning the
CORRECTS STATE TO W.VA. INSTEAD OF VA. - West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, speaks during a press conference concerning the chemical spill, at the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. Starting with downtown Charleston, officials in West Virginia are gradually lifting the ban on using tap water in the nine counties affected by a chemical spill that tainted the water supply. The announcement Monday comes five days after some 300,000 people were told to use the water only to flush their toilets. Tomblin says the testing of the water indicates that it's now safe enough for the ban to be lifted. It's being lifted area by area, so that the water system doesn't get overwhelmed by excessive demand. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin addressed ongoing concerns in parts of his state on Monday, telling residents "it's your decision" to use the water or not.

"If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking in this water, then use bottled water," Tomblin said at a news conference in Charleston. "I'm not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don't use it."

West Virginia American Water Co. customers and residents living near the Elk River remained wary of the water over the weekend as the licorice-like smell of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol lingered.

7,500 gallons of the chemical, used to process coal, spilled into the Elk River on Jan. 9, prompting a prohibition on using tap water that affected around 300,000 West Virginians. Restrictions on using tap water were lifted for most of the affected residents by Friday.

Tomblin emphasized that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the water is safe as long as it contains less than 1 part per million of the coal-cleaning chemical, which leaked into the Elk River from the Freedom Industries tank farm 1.5 miles upstream from the water intake.

Outside public health experts, though, have said the lack of much data on the chemical -- not an unusual situation for most chemicals -- makes it hard to be sure the CDC number is adequately protective, especially for young children.

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West Virginia Chemical Spill