DATE: W.Va. orders company to drain chemical tanks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - It could take days before the water is safe around West Virginia's capital city.

A chemical spill has left the water for 300,000 people in nine counties stained blue-green and smelling like licorice. Federal officials are investigating how a foaming agent escaped from a chemical plant and seeped into the Elk River.

Experts say it isn't deadly but can cause symptoms ranging from skin irritation and rashes to vomiting and diarrhea.

Officials say the only way to treat contaminated water around West Virginia's capital city is to flush the system until the concentration of chemicals is reduced to safe levels, and that could take days.

West Virginia's environmental protection department has ordered Freedom Industries to drain chemicals from 14 above-ground storage tanks near the river and submit a plan to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater within 24 hours.