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Residents of nine counties in West Virginia have been without tap water for three days after a major chemical spill polluted the water supply on Thursday. Everything from businesses to schools in Charleston, the capital city, have been shuttered.

"The water restrictions were imposed Thursday when it was discovered about 7,500 gallons of a chemical used to clean coal -- 4-methylcyclohexane methanol -- had leaked out of a storage tank located a mile upriver from the water plant."

As authorities to continue to flush the pipes that carry water to the area, a relief effort is underway. Trucks filled with bottled water are being driven to the impacted areas for distribution. Others are leaving town for meals and hot showers. Since Thursday, four people have been hospitalized and dozens of others have visited emergency rooms.

On a telling note, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued an emergency order to reiterate that residents cannot make the tap water safe by boiling it. In fact, as one video shows, the water coming from taps in some West Virginia houses is actually flammable.

Officials expect that it will be another few days before the water system is deemed safe for use again.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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