Water Ban Lifted for Part of W.Va. After Spill

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Starting with downtown Charleston, officials in West Virginia are gradually lifting the ban on using tap water in the nine counties affected by a chemical spill that tainted the water supply.

The announcement comes five days after some 300,000 people were told to use the water only to flush their toilets.

Gov. Earl Tomblin says the testing of the water indicates that it's now safe enough for the ban to be lifted. It's being lifted area by area, so that the water system doesn't get overwhelmed by excessive demand.

Customers are being urged to flush out their systems before using the water again. Officials say the water could still have an odor, but that it is safe to use.

The ban on water use caused restaurants, day-care centers and schools to close. There are still questions about how the leak occurred, and whether the company where the spill took place took too long to tell state officials that there was a problem.

Federal authorities have opened an investigation.

The spill involved a chemical that is used in coal processing. It leaked from a Freedom Industries plant into the nearby Elk River.