Students Sent Home From West Virginia Schools Amid Fears Over Water Contamination

CHARLESTON, WV - JANUARY 10: Freedom Industries on Barlow St on the banks of the Elk River is seen on January 10, 2014 in Charleston, West Virginia. West Virginia American Water determined Thursday MCHM chemical had 'overwhelmed' the plant's capacity to keep it out of the water from a spill at Freedom Industries in Charleston. An unknown amount of the hazardous chemical contaminated the public water system for potentially 300,000 people in West Virginia. 
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Clare Foran
Feb. 10, 2014, 1:25 a.m.

Stu­dents at a hand­ful of schools in Char­le­ston, W.Va., were sent home last week amid re­ports of po­ten­tial wa­ter con­tam­in­a­tion fol­low­ing a chem­ic­al spill last month, The New York Times re­ports.

Stu­dents were told to leave after stu­dents and fac­ulty no­ticed the smell of licorice, a dis­tinct odor giv­en off by the chem­ic­al MCHM that made its way in­to the state’s Elk River when a chem­ic­al stor­age tank leaked last month.

Test­ing at the schools that either sent stu­dents home or closed en­tirely in­dic­ated that levels of MCHM in the wa­ter did not pose a threat to pub­lic health. But West Vir­gin­ia res­id­ents re­main skep­tic­al.

“If one smells the odor, people know the chem­ic­al is in the wa­ter,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the dir­ect­or of the Kanawha-Char­le­ston Health De­part­ment. “It’s dif­fi­cult for a lot of people to drink it even if they agree with the sci­ence be­hind it.”

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