Charleston, W.Va. -- More than half of West Virginia American Water Co. customers who were told not to use their tap water for much of anything in response to a chemical spill last week are able to start trying the process of flushing out their pipes.
As of Wednesday evening, 51,600 customers had been lifted from the do-not-use order. About 100,000 customers - roughly 300,000 people - were under the order when it was issued Jan. 9.
Although more areas were cleared to start flushing Wednesday morning, there was another long delay in the water company allowing other sections to start the process.
About 7 p.m. Thursday, the water company posted an apology on its Facebook page.
"We are sorry the next order lift is taking so long," the post states.
"The ban is being lifted in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system is not overwhelmed by excessive demand, thereby causing more water quality and service issues. Thank you again for your continued cooperation."
It's been at least a week since crude MCHM leaked from a storage container at a site owned by Freedom Industries. Officials believe as much as 7,500 gallons of the chemical seeped through a hole in the tank Thursday morning. An unknown amount leaked through an old concrete block wall and into the Elk River.
West Virginia American Water has a treatment facility about 1.5 miles downstream from the spill. Company President Jeff McIntyre has said the chemical overwhelmed the system's filters by 4 p.m. Jan. 9, leading to the do-not-use advisory and later a state of emergency declaration from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Laura Jordan, water company spokeswoman, said early Wednesday two new areas were cleared since Tuesday night.
An area stretching from Dunbar to Buffalo - including Winfield, Poca, Nitro and Bancroft - was lifted about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, allowing 9,100 more customers to start flushing their pipes.
About 6 a.m. Wednesday an area including Sissonville, Pocatalico and Tuppers Creek was given the green light, affecting an additional 5,100 customers.
At 10:30 a.m. Monday, 600 more Putnam County customers were given the go-ahead to start the flushing process in areas around Grandview and Allen's Route.
Testing went on throughout the company's distribution system Tuesday night. Jordan said more than 1,000 samples have been tested in an effort to clear customers' water for safe use.
"The numbers we're getting from the Elk River - both at the Elk River and the water coming through the water treatment plant - are non-detectable," Jordan said, referring to the levels of crude MCHM in the water.
The last time any amount of the chemical was detected at the treatment center was Monday at 11 p.m., according to test results released late Wednesday. There have been 28 tests of water entering and leaving the center where no amount of MCHM was detected, according to the results.