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The latest tests of poisoned water in West Virginia have shown that the quality is improving “in the right direction,” the state’s governor said Sunday, a hopeful sign for the 300,000 residents currently under a strict tap water ban following a chemical spill four days ago.
“We are at a point where we can see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
But officials stopped short of saying when the do-not-use order would be lifted.
“I can tell you we’re not several days from starting to lift, but I’m not saying today,” Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, which runs the water treatment plant, said at a news conference.
The chemical spill first noticed Thursday on the Elk River has contaminated the water supply in the heart of the state, shutting down schools and businesses across nine counties, and forcing emergency agencies to truck in clean water to the Charleston region.
Lt. Col. Greg Grant of the West Virginia National Guard said two tests Sunday morning at the treatment facility show the chemical’s concentration at 0 parts-per-million for water going in and out of the plant.
Before the all clear can be given once and for all, water sample test results must consistently show that the chemical’s presence in the public water system is at or below 1 parts-per-million, the level recommended by federal agencies.
“That is a very encouraging and allows us to move forward” with the next phase of sampling and testing, Grant said.
Officials cautioned that the ban won’t be lifted until results were in and the state health department signs off.