Pollution

Feds Open Probe on W. Va. Chemical Spill

Contaminated water supply for hundreds of thousands

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Federal authorities launched investigations Friday into a West Virginia chemical spill that contaminated the water supply for as many as 300,000 people and closed businesses and schools in the populous heart of the state.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, whose jurisdiction overlaps the affected area, said his office has opened a criminal probe into the cause of Thursday's spill in the state capital of Charleston. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating, as are state agencies, including the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Thousands of homes and businesses in Charleston and surrounding counties were told not to drink or use their tap water on Thursday after officials determined that a leak from a chemical-manufacturer storage facility on the Elk River had infiltrated a water-treatment plant. President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration for the state Friday, and officials scrambled to set up water-distribution centers.