CHARLESTON, W. Va. — A chemical spill in Charleston's Elk River has prompted the state and the federal government to declare a disaster, according to an article by U.S. News and World Report.

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The spill from Freedom Industries happened Thursday night, when a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process leaked from a tank and overran a containment area, reaching a nearby treatment plant, the article reported.

Residents in all or part of nine West Virginia counties were told to refrain from drinking, bathing in, cooking with or washing clothes in the tap water until further notice, noted the article.

According to the article, the West Virginia National Guard will be distributing bottled water to emergency service agencies in the nine counties.

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The chemical, continued the article, smells like licorice or cough syrup and although it is not lethal, it is harmful if swallowed and inhaled, causing eye and skin irritation.

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