Nightly News   |  February 20, 2014

West Virginia Wary of ‘Smelly Water’

Weeks after a chemical spill on the Elk River, the state insists the water is safe, but many aren’t convinced.

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

>>> it has been six weeks now since authorities in charleston , west virginia , warned people not to drink the water after the big chemical spill in the river. while the warning was lifted ten days later a lot of people did not believe it because the water still smelled and they did not think it was safe. and now, the governor is calling for much more rigorous testing, we get our report tonight from nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: the line for free bottled water at this charleston distribution center starts as a trickle each morning and then picks up each day. stephanie gregory came with her 14 month-old.

>> i'm not going to drink smelly water or cook with smelly water. i'm not going to bathe myself or my kids in smelly water.

>> reporter: six months since the 10-gallon chemical spill left households without water and tap water . the state insists the water has been safe for weeks. but many people are not convinced. on monday, the school closed early after teachers complained of headaches and smelled the licorice associated with the chemical, mchm. after filling up his water jugs, lou took us to see home. at the moment i don't smell anything. lou and belinda tyrece say they smell it in their shower during the day, but not all day. do any one of you trust the water?

>> for bathing, not drinking or cooking.

>> reporter: one of the country's biggest independent labs has tested 800 water samples tested from homes and businesses. so far the chemical levels are undetected. is the odor alone a sign that there are unacceptable levels of this toxic chemical?

>> it could be one sign, but not necessarily the only sign. you won't know unless you get it tested.

>> reporter: still, the mayor of charleston is concerned.

>> try to get people to come to this city and to stay here, and we're going to run into trouble because of this.

>> reporter: the center for disease control insists the water is safe for everyone to drink. but to reassure residents and to eliminate any potential economic damage the city is seeking an out of state lab to test the water yet again. tom costello, nbc news, charleston .