Nightly News   |  January 11, 2014

Water Crisis Hits West Virginia

A chemical leak means West Virginia residents cannot drink, bathe or use their tap water for an indefinite period of time. NBC News’ Luke Russert reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a state of emergency is in effect tonight and hundreds of thousands wonder how long it will be before they get relief from the water crisis caused by a chemical leak that has contaminated the city's water supply . nbc's luke russert has more on the story.

>> we don't know when the situation will be remedied.

>> reporter: for the third straight day, as many as 300,000 residents have been unable to bathe, drink or cook with tap water . relying instead on bottled water and refills at government distribution centers , and that is where we met penny faber, the mother of this 9 month-old boy, trent trenton.

>> i can tend to myself, but he can't.

>> reporter: at home, all faucets are off limits, her baby is cleaned with distilled water and she mixes the formula with boltled water.

>> the water is not safe for us to drink.

>> reporter: and there does not seem to be relief in sight. today, the governor's office says it will take days before they even know when it will be safe to drink the water again.

>> this is a large system and requires a significant amount of testing and sampling.

>> reporter: all of this the result of a chemical spill at freedom industries that contaminate d that elk river , going down stream which supplies water to nine counties. since then, the poison center has reported 787 cases of exposure, complaints of nausea, vomiting and skin irritation. at the charleston area medical center , a water tank parked just outside for emergency cleaning and sterilizing.

>> water touches just about every piece of our lives and especially the hospital, clean cleaning the gowns the patients wear, the scrubs that operating room nurses are wearing to the bed sheets and pillows so it is really important.

>> reporter: while the hospitals stay open for now, schools and many businesses remain closed. the loss of revenue is expected to be in the millions, the devastating water contamination is impacting almost everyone there in the capital city . and lester, the residents are still on edge, late word that a team will be sent here on monday from the u.s. chemical safety board . they will investigate what exactly caused that leak a and what safeguards to be put in place so something this bad never happens