Editor's Note: In response to a disastrous Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated the water supply in nine West Virginia counties, affecting at least 300,000 people, Steritech has made available a Water Contamination Food Safety Brief to help foodservice operators and food retailers develop temporary alternative procedures.

Although the brief is geared to the current situation in West Virginia, we at Food Safety Magazine feel the content could be useful to foodservice and food retail operations anywhere, any time a water contamination incident may occur. Below, we provide the Summary and Introduction to the brief. The complete document, a 142 KB PDF, may be downloaded here.


On Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, the White House issued a federal disaster declaration in West Virginia as the result of a chemical spill on Jan. 9 that contaminated the water supply. West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin had issued a state of emergency on Thursday evening for nine counties serviced by West Virginia American Water in Kanawha, Cabell, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane, and Jackson counties. It is believed that more than 300,000 people are impacted.

Water contaminated by this chemical can cause burning of the skin, eyes, and mouth/throat. It is critical that water not be used for drinking, food preparation, washing dishes or utensils, bathing, brushing teeth, washing clothes, or feeding/watering animals or any other action that could lead to injury.

This document outlines steps to be taken in the event of a contaminated water supply. However, it is a general guideline and does not supersede directives issued by West Virginia authorities. Any instruction given by local authorities should be followed at all times. Updates are happening frequently, and this document may not contain the most recent directives.


The following guidelines are intended to assist with the development of temporary alternative procedures to address various food operations that are affected by this chemical spill. It is important that the manager or person-in-charge ensures that if these temporary procedures are needed, they are strictly followed and all operations operate in compliance with food safety requirements and in accordance with the local regulatory authority.

Steritech is a Charlotte, NC-based provider of brand protection services — including audits, consulting, training, customer experience management and pest prevention — to companies in the supermarket, hotel, restaurant, and retail industries.