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Company works to contain chemical leak

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia company says it doesn't know how much of a chemical spilled from its plant in Charleston into the Elk River. But Freedom Industries says it's working to contain the leak and prevent further contamination.

Shortly after the spill, the state's governor told residents of the region not to use tap water for drinking, bathing, cooking or washing clothes. State officials say about 300,000 people in nine counties were affected by the order.

They say the orders were issued as a precaution, since they still aren't sure exactly how much of a hazard is posed by the chemical.

It's a foaming agent that is used in the coal preparation process. Experts say the chemical is harmful if swallowed, and possibly if it's inhaled, and that it causes eye and skin irritation.

Federal authorities are launching an investigation into how the spill happened.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is planning to deliver more than a million liters of bottled water from nearby Maryland, but the first shipments aren't expected to arrive until tonight.

Residents of the area quickly stripped store shelves of their bottled water supplies. One clerk at a convenience store says it was "chaos."