Water issue raises controversy

Ron Gregory

February 3, 2014

MADISON — “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.”

The words included in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner could not have been more accurate last week in Boone County schools.

Parents contacted the newspaper to say that, while semi-trucks filled with bottled water sat on the Scott High School parking lot, student/athletes were not being allowed to have any of it. That was the edict in place Tuesday but by Wednesday, any such order had been revised.

Figuring out who gave the instructions to begin with became a bit difficult, however.

School Superintendent John Hudson expressed surprise at the situation when contacted by a reporter. Hudson acknowledged that the county school system had received “several semi loads of bottled water from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He added the agency had “sent five truckloads more but we sent it back.”

The superintendent said the water kept was “strategically” placed around the county. He said there was plenty of water for all students and student/athletes. Hudson said he had “no idea” where anyone would have gotten the idea that athletes needed to buy their own.

School was not in session when the parents called, so Scott Principal Allen Halley was not immediately available for comment. However, only minutes after the superintendent was contacted, a parent called to say the rule had been “lifted” and student/athletes would have access to the water.

At Friday’s game in Madison against Sissonville, bottles of water were distributed to both teams.

Halley said at the game that he did not really want to discuss the water situation. Reluctantly, he did admit that he was told by “somebody” that athletes should not be given any of the water. Halley said that the problem “has been worked out. Everybody can have water now.”

At the heart of the issue is the condition of water supplied by West Virginia-American Water Company. After a chemical spill near the company’s water intake on Elk River just outside of Charleston, WV-A issued a “do not use” order. Eventually, the order was lifted but there have been many complaints about the water’s quality, smell and taste. The problems are so apparent that many local and Charleston restaurants advertise they are still using “bottled water.”

Under that situation, most parents do not want their children consuming the WV-A water. Even after the “all-clear” was announced, several people have complained of various ailments allegedly caused by the water.

Hudson and Halley both said there was “plenty of water to last us for a long time” in storage at local schools. Neither said when they might expect students to drink the WV-A water again.