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West Virginia water worries linked to bad weather

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For the past six weeks trouble with the water has plagued the tri-state area. For the past six weeks trouble with the water has plagued the tri-state area.
CHARLESTON, West Virginia -

For the past six weeks trouble with the water has plagued the tri-state area. Crude MCHM leaked into the Elk River and tainted the water supply for hundreds of thousands of West Virginias. Major water main breaks in Kentucky and Ohio shut off the water to thousands of residents.

It all started with the Polar Vortex, the first major freeze of the New Year. Temperatures throughout the tri-state region dipped into the negatives. Water pipes froze and busted, keeping many plumbers hard at work.

Days after the Polar Vortex, a massive chemical leaked into the Elk River from Freedom Industries. While the investigation is far from over, officials from Freedom believe the cold weather caused a pipe to burst and puncture a holding tank. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM leaked into the Elk River, forcing a do not use water ban for 9 West Virginia counties.

"Because we don't know a lot about the product, we're sampling and looking at the concentration, we're advising our customers do not use the water," said Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water Company the night the spill occurred.

As the do not use water ban was being lifted, more freezing temperatures struck again. Water mains started breaking across the region, including in Kanawha County, Cabell County, Boyd County and Lawrence County. Thousands of residents were without water once again.

On top of the chemical spill and water main breaks, more than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry spilled into an Eastern Kanawha County creek on February 12. The water immediately turned black.

"The hollow has changed, it's not like it was when we were growing up," said Loretta Stover, who lives in front of the creek.

Again, weather seemed to be a factor. DEP officials say the spill was caused after ice built up on a slurry pipeline valve.

The latest water problem in the area is a diesel spill in the Kanawha River. On Feb. 15 a semi-truck overturned on 1-77 near the Capital exit. According to first responders on scene, diesel fuel leaked into a storm drain leading to the Kanawha River.

The Charleston Fire Department and the WV DEP have been monitoring the storm drain and have placed booms to catch the residue.