Those in the Charleston-area were told the concentration of a chemical in their water won't be harmful, but many locals aren't buying it. (Reuters)
Residents wary as chemical odor lingers

The smell lingers — the slightly sweet, slightly bitter odor of a chemical that contaminated the water supply of West Virginia’s capital more than a week ago.

For several days, a majority of Charleston area residents have been told that their water is safe to drink, that the concentration of a chemical used to wash coal is so low that it won’t be harmful.

The Jan. 9 spill from a Freedom Industries facility on the banks of the Elk River, less than two miles upstream from Charleston’s water treatment plant, led to a ban on water use that affected 300,000 people.

Four days later, officials started to lift the ban in one area after another, saying tap water was safe for drinking because the concentration of the chemical dipped below one part per million, even though the smell was still strong at that level. By Jan. 10, nearly all of the 300,000 people impacted had been told the water was safe.

Late Wednesday, however, health officials issued different guidance for pregnant women, urging them not to drink tap water until the chemical is entirely undetectable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it made that recommendation out of an abundance of caution because existing studies don’t provide a complete picture of how the chemical affects humans.

Freedom Industries, blamed for the spill, filed for bankruptcy Friday.

— Associated Press

Firefighters hold line in L.A. area blaze

Firefighters sought to prevent a wildfire in the foothills near Los Angeles from flaring up Saturday as they put out embers from a blaze that has destroyed five homes, officials said.

The Colby Fire, which officials said started from a campfire early Thursday, has blackened nearly 1,900 acres of drought-parched chaparral and is 30 percent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Robert Brady said.

That was the same level of containment firefighters reported Friday, but officials were optimistic that they were gaining the upper hand on the blaze centered in the San Gabriel Mountains, on territory that is part of the Angeles National Forest.

“It’s not spreading anymore,” Brady said.

More than 1,100 firefighters, backed by four water-dropping airplanes and three helicopters, are battling the blaze, officials said.

Tests reveal unsafe levels of chemical in the water despite residents being told it was safe to drink. (Reuters)

The fire prompted about 3,500 residents in parts of Glendora and neighboring Azusa, northeast of Los Angeles, to vacate their homes on the order of authorities.

— Reuters

Teen’s family bracing for tests on remains

The parents of an autistic New York City teenager missing since October are holding onto a slim hope that remains discovered on the banks of the East River belong to someone else.

But a lawyer for the family conceded Saturday that “It’s not looking great” for the family of Avonte Oquendo.

Lawyer David Perecman said clothing found on the remains appears to match what the
14-year-old was wearing when he bolted from his Queens school.

Perecman said that the family is waiting for DNA tests to determine whether the remains belong to the missing teen.

— Associated Press

Boeing sued in Asiana crash: Boeing was sued by more than 80 passengers of an Asiana Airlines jet that crashed in July who claim that the airplane maker is liable for their injuries because of an inadequate airspeed warning system and poor training. The Boeing-made 777-200ER slammed into a seawall at the foot of a runway at San Francisco International Airport, breaking off its tail section and bursting into flames as it pinwheeled onto the tarmac. Three of the 307 people aboard died. The injured passengers accused Boeing of negligent plane design and inadequate pilot training in their complaint filed Saturday in Illinois state court in Chicago, where Boeing is based. The plaintiffs seek unspecified money damages. John Dern, a Boeing spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations.

L.A. to get list of possible quake-prone buildings: Researchers have decided to hand the city of Los Angeles a list of older concrete buildings, some of which may be prone to collapse during a strong earthquake. An estimated 75 of the 1,500 concrete buildings around Los Angeles County compiled by a team led by the University of California at Berkeley could topple during violent shaking, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. The announcement Friday, on the 20th anniversary of the deadly Northridge quake, will help the city determine which buildings are at risk and take steps to retrofit them.

Sallie Mae reports 22 percent dip in profit: SLM Corp., the student lender known as Sallie Mae, reported a fourth-quarter profit decline of 22 percent. Net income fell to $270 million, or 60 cents per share, compared with $348 million, or 74 cents, in the year-earlier period, the Newark, Del.-based company said in a statement Saturday distributed by Business Wire. Sallie Mae is remaking its business after legislation passed in 2010 cut companies out of the market for government-guaranteed debt.

— From news services