Residents of a street of homes in Windy Gap, Virginia (VA) in Roanoke County have been warned to not drink their well water more than two weeks after a tanker truck crashed carrying embalming fluid. The toxic chemical soaked into the soil on the mountain only yards from their homes.
Samples have been taken from a total of eight wells so far and have tested negative for formaldehyde, but the Department of Health has warned residents in the area to not use their well water.
Virginia health safety workers determined that 4400 gallons of embalming fluid spilled onto Jae Valley Road near Carr Rouse Road, which was most of what the truck was carrying.
The embalming fluid contains water, ethanol, formaldehyde and methanol, according to the pollution response coordinator at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The fluid can cause serious health problems, including respiratory, skin and eye problems. It can be fatal if swallowed.
This appears to be the first big spill of formaldehyde in the state. It is not completely clear to officials how the fluid is going to affect the environment. The liquid is water soluble, which means that the chemical may disperse with rain. But the chemical could be difficult to get out of groundwater too.
The Department of Health has sent out a verbal warning to residents with wells in that area to not drink water from the ground for the time being. Five gallon jugs of water have been given out to neighborhood residents by the insurance firm that represents the trucking company.
It is not certain how long that the water should not be used, but the Department of Health said that they continue to test the water and will make a decision in the coming weeks.