MADISON – Despite hopes that the water crisis will be over soon in Boone County, it appears it will continue for many more days.
The latest statement from West Virginia American Water said, “We are sorry the next order lift is taking so long. The ban is being lifted in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system is not overwhelmed by excessive demand, thereby causing more water quality and service issues. Thank you again for your continued patience.”
The water company has set up a Web site with a map showing areas that can begin the flushing process. Those in the blue portions, which currently are only zones in and around Charleston, have began flushing, while Boone County remains in the red portion, which means to continue under the “Do Not Use” order.
The map can be found online at http://www.amwater.com/wvaw/about-us/news.html or those without a computer can call 1-855-390-4569 for additional clarification.
Meanwhile, some Charleston area residents are complaining about the quality of the water coming through the pipes, even after following the water company’s detailed flushing instructions.
Last week, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a “State of Emergency” for Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties following a chemical spill by Freedom Industries in Charleston in the Elk River, just above a main drinking water intake for West Virginia American Water Company.
“This declaration follows a notice from West Virginia American Water Company that its water supply had become contaminated,” Tomblin said.
The chemical has been identified at “Crude MCHM” or 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol.
At a press conference in Charleston on Saturday, officials estimated that 7,500 gallons of the chemical leaked into the river and were not sure if more was still leaching into the river from the soil where the spill occurred.
“West Virginians in the affected service areas are urged not to use tap water for drinking, cooking, washing or bathing,” Tomblin added. “Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible.”
Free bottled water has been available in Boone County, but some distribution sites ran out of water on Tuesday. No word on when, or if, more free water will be available. However, some grocery stores in the area appear to still have several cases of bottled water available for sale.
The water company continues to flush its affected systems and test them. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said that below one part per million of the chemical still in the water supply presents no health risk to the public.
Over 150 people have reported symptoms from using the water before knowing it was contaminated and some have been admitted to the hosptial.
The West Virginia DHHR says symptoms that could happen from using the contaminated water include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, and trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.
Homeland Security says if you feel sick, seek medical attention at a local hospital or call poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
A few Boone County restaurants have opened after they submitted a plan of how they would bring in clean, potable water to their businesses and the plan meet health department criteria. On site visits would make sure the businesses were in compliance, said West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling.
Gary Southern, President of Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the chemical leak issued the following statement after the leak:
“Since the discovery of the leak, safety for residents in Kanawha and surrounding counties has been Freedom Industries’ first priority. We have been working with local and federal regulatory, safety and environmental entities, including the DEP, Coast Guard, Army Corp of Engineers and Homeland Security, and are following all necessary steps to fix the issue. Our team has been working around the clock since the discovery to contain the leak to prevent further contamination. At this point, Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released, as the first priority was safety, containment and cleanup. Freedom Industries is in the process of setting up an Incident Command Center on site. As more factual information is made available, we will keep you updated.”
He has refused to speak to the media since his controversial press conference at which he was drinking bottled water and attempted to just walk out on the interview.
Due to the increase of plastic water bottles, plastic water containers and plastic milk containers the Boone County Commission has reserved an open top container at the #1 Transfer Station located at Rock Creek and the #2 Transfer Station located at Fosterville.
Boone County schools remained closed on Wednesday, as well as schools in Lincoln, Kanawha and Putnam counties.
Several other agencies has also been helping as best they can during the crisis.
Morrisvale Helping Hand, Inc. Is a drop off site for supplies such as paper plates, cups, plastic silverware, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, drinking water, paper towels and other needed supplies.
“We have extended our hours from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week until the state of emergency has been lifted,” the charity organization said in a press release. “If you know of anyone that needs services with in Boone or Lincoln County that has city water and is in the effected area please contact us here at Morrisvale Hhi and we can see how we can help those people 304-524-7087.”
Americans for Prosperity Foundation also was providing w water and supplies to families in need at the old metered parking lot on State Street in Madison.
Water was provided until supplies run out.
“We are encouraged by reports that water may be restored soon,” said Wendy McCuskey, West Virginia state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation. “We will continue providing water as supplies last to families in need.”