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West Virginia water crisis: Officials say the end is in sight

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    Monday, January 13, 2014, 4:46 PM -

    Imagine not being able to do your dishes, shower, or brush your teeth. 

    That has been the scenario for more than a quarter of a million people in West Virginia, four days after a chemical spill.

    But there appears to be an end in sight: West Virginia's governor offered some optimism Sunday night, but couldn't say for sure when the water ban would completely be lifted. 

    "I believe we are at a point where can say we see light at the end of the tunnel," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.

    Bottled water has been moving by the truckload. It's the only way the people of nine counties -- about 300-thousand residents in all -- have been able to wash their hands, brush their teeth, wash dishes and bathe.


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    The chemical involved in the spill, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, is commonly used to clean coal. The impact it could have on people has been hard for officials to figure out. 

    "Most people did not know a whole lot about this particular chemical, and it's one that we've had to do a lot of research on, internally, very quickly to find out what effects it may have," the govenor said at a press conference.

    People have been warned to watch for irritated skin, nausea, vomiting, or wheezing.

    The state's department of health says 169 people were treated for possible exposure at emergency rooms then released. Ten people were admitted to hospitals -- but none of their conditions were considered serious.

    Overnight, officials announced they would start lifting the do-not-use order in "zones," where tap water is once again safe to use -- after people flush their systems.

    For the rest of those still under do-not-use orders, water for everything but firefighting and toilet flushing will still have to come from the bottle -- not the tap.

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