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West Virginia's tap water still contains traces of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) following a chemical spill that occurred nearly a month ago, making toxic the water supply of nearly 300,000 people.

According to CNN, which commissioned an independent chemical test, the amount of MCHM found in tap and untreated water in two homes are considered safe by the CDC. But that doesn't mean residents in affected counties feel comfortable drinking tap water. One woman, who allowed CNN to test water from her home, explained that "we don't know what the long-term effects are going to be. Yes, it may not kill us, but I'm concerned about my kids twenty years from now." Another woman said she could still smell the tell-tale licorice scent that signifies the presence of MCHM. 

From left, Manchin, Tennant, and Rep. Nick Rahall. AP

The CEO of West Virginia American Water, Jeff McIntyre, assured the public that the state's water supply is safe, telling CNN that he and his family have been drinking tap water. But the head of the county health department in Kanawha-Charleston, one of the regions affected by the spill, said most people aren't drinking the water just yet. 

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant also said, in a hearing on Tuesday, that tension is high among residents fearing for their safety:

People are fed up... They are angry, and they are scared. Several people showed up at a town hall in Charleston last week with rashes they believe are connected to the water. Others have complained of headaches, nausea and vomiting. Families are melting snow to give their kids baths.

According to MSNBC, Tennant demanded a 10-year study to monitor the health effects of drinking tap water in the affected areas, in keeping with WV's Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's director's recommendation. 

During the hearing, officials discussed the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act, proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), which would mandate inspections of chemical storage units and lay out guidelines for responses in the case of a leak. 

A federal grand jury has reportedly been  conducting a criminal investigation into the leak since 7,000 gallons of MCHM leaked from a Freedom Industries tank into Charleston, West Virginia's water supply, forcing people to rely on bottled water to drink and bathe in for several days. Freedom Industries, which reported two weeks ago that a second, less-harmful chemical had also spilled into the water supply, filed for bankruptcy a few days prior to the second announcement. 

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

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