Local chemical company works to prevent water contamination crisis

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - Charleston, West Virginia residents are being allowed to turn on their water for the first time in five days after 7,500 gallons of a hazardous chemical spilled in the region's main river, leaving more 300,000 people without clean water.

News 5 learned the leak happened after a tank ruptured at a Charleston chemical storage facility.

The Tri-Cities is also home to a large chemical plant, Eastman Chemical Company, which sits on the banks of the Holston River.

We asked Richard Strang, Eastman's manager of environment affairs, what they are doing to make sure the same thing won't happen in our area. "We've put a lot of resources into making sure our raw materials and our products are under our control at all times. In this case, there were tanks that were in question. We do integrity testing around the tanks to make sure they are in good shape," he said.

Strang tells us they've even taken more technologically advanced precautions. "We've gone beyond that and installed monitoring systems that run 24/7 that give us an early indication of a release from our facility," he said.

We discovered the West Virginia American Red Cross has distributed more than 122,000 bottles of water in the area, and they've deployed 13 emergency response vehicles to county offices of emergency management to support bulk water distribution.

We asked the Glenda Boboalike, executive director of the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee, if they were prepared to help people in our area who could be caught in a similar chemical crisis. Boboalike said all communities have specific concerns that they have to watch out for and prepare for, and she says the Red Cross is prepared to help people who are affected by a local chemical crisis.

The Red Cross tells News 5 that you should have at least a three days' supply of water at your home for each of your family members.

They also suggest that you have a specific lodging and transportation plan that everyone in your family is familiar with.

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