- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Tests conducted more than two weeks after a chemical spill tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians show the presence of the chemical remains in five schools, state officials said Friday.

The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management released the results of samples taken from tap water at 94 schools in five counties.

Most of the samples collected Tuesday and Wednesday were taken from Kanawha County. Results of other samples were released from schools in Boone, Cabell, Lincoln and Putnam counties.

The crude MCHM that spilled Feb. 9 from Freedom Industries was present in tests at Andrew Heights Elementary, George Washington High School and John Adams Middle School in Kanawha County; Buffalo High School in Putnam County, and at Lincoln County High School.

The five schools will undergo another round of flushing before more tests are done.

The goal is to have the samples below 10 parts per billion - far below the 1 part per million screening level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five of the schools were tested at above 10 parts per billion.

“It is important for students, parents and educators to understand that the five schools highlighted by the most recent round of testing were well below the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s recommended level, but were not yet at the more stringent screening level that the interagency team was directed to achieve beyond the CDC guidelines,” said state schools Superintendent Jim Phares.

No results were released for samples taken at 13 other schools.

In all, tests are planned at 130 public and private schools. Schools have been using bottled water for cooking and drinking.

The Jan. 9 spill leaked into the Elk River and got into the intake at West Virginia American Water in Charleston, tainting the water supply for residents in nine counties. Officials deemed the water safe only for flushing toilets and dousing fires. The water-use ban was lifted for all customers a week later.

On Thursday, cleanup crews at Freedom Industries severed an underground pipe, but no crude MCHM reached the river, said state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise.

Aluise said work crews didn’t know the pipe was there when it was struck and are trying to determine where the pipe originates.

The crews were using an excavator to enlarge an existing trench. Aluise said the trench prevented any of the minor amounts of crude MCHM from the pipe from reaching the river.

Since the chemical from the earlier spill got into the ground, the ditch is being used to collect any runoff from rain or snowmelt, he said.

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