Water ban lifted for part of W.Va. after spill

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.

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167-a-12-(Jeff McIntyre, president, West Virginia American Water, at news conference)-"pressures are restored"-West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre says once people get the advisory that water in their own area is safe, they'll need to flush out their water lines. Only after doing that will it be safe to use their tap water. (13 Jan 2014)

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APPHOTO WVCHD101: Christie Peterson, left, and Melissa Appleton pass out cases of water at the Malden Volunteer Fire Department in Malden, W.Va., Sunday Jan. 12, 2014. The water emergency continues in the Charleston area due to a chemical spill. (AP Photo/Charleston Daily Mail, Craig Cunningham) (12 Jan 2014)

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APPHOTO WVSH102: Workers at Freedom Industries continue through the night to empty storage tanks of chemicals into tanker trucks at it's plant in Charleston, Va., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. A chemical spill at the company has deprived 300,000 West Virginians of clean tap water for four days.(AP Photo/Steve Helber) (12 Jan 2014)

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