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Tainted water forces Letcher schools to close

Schools will be closed Wednesday in Letcher County, where oil has tainted the water supply of thousands of residents.

Investigators found petroleum seeping into the North Fork of the Kentucky River, about a mile from the Whitesburg water plant's intake, after residents called Saturday complaining their water smelled like gasoline, Whitesburg Mayor James Craft said. He said state and local officials quickly shut down and then cleaned the water plant, which serves about 2,000 residents throughout Letcher County.

Residents have been asked not to consume the water or use it for anything other than flushing toilets, as officials wait for water tests to ensure it is safe to drink.

Both state and local officials have declined to name the source of the contamination because they say it is still under investigation. Citations could be issued, Craft said.

In the meantime, school officials say they will monitor the water situation and make school closing decisions on a day-by-day basis.