Late last week, a chemical spill rendered the drinking water supply of up to 300,000 residents in the Charleston, West Virginia area unusable. This represents a massive water contamination situation that has had a steady place in news cycles for nearly a week.
With all the coverage and confusion, there is bound to be some misinformation about what is currently happening and regarding what West Virginia residents should do when the water contamination situation is given the relative all clear.
If you are a resident of the Charleston, West Virginia area, here is what you need to know. We encourage you to share this with anyone impacted:
1. Drinking Water Restrictions Will Not Be Fully Lifted For Days (As of Tuesday, Jan 14)
As of about 12:30pm EST today, drinking water has been restored to six zones in the Charleston, West Virginia area. It could be days before all tap water is once again deemed safe.
2. Why Is It Taking So Long For West Virginia Tap Water Restrictions to be Lifted?
The level of drinking water contamination in West Virginia is unprecedented. West Virginia American Water is very methodically testing and turning water back on to ensure the greatest level of public safety.
More information and real-time updates can be found on the West Virginia American Water Facebook page.
3. What Will Happen If I Drink Any of the Contaminated Water?
Fortunately, while dozens have sought treatment from local hospitals for nausea and other relatively minor symptoms, no major illnesses have been reported. Unfortunately, neither state nor West Virginia American Water officials are clear on exactly what the health implications are in regards to the contaminated water.
“Most people did not know a whole lot about this chemical [4-methylcyclohexane methanol or MCHM],” West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said Sunday. “We’ve had to do a lot of research.”
Freedom Industries, the company that stored the chemical indicated that is has a low toxicity. However, Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water states that his agency cannot definitively say that drinking water is safe.
If you drank or were exposed to any tap water in West Virginia since Friday and are suffering from any symptoms including headaches or nausea, it is recommended that you call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 and consult with a doctor or physician as soon as possible.
4. Where Can I Get Drinking Water While I Am Waiting For Restrictions To Be Lifted?
The National Guard is manning several drinking water drop-off and distribution sites, a listing of which can be found on the WCHS website.
Note that in order to receive water, you will need to bring your own containers, plastic water bottles or pitchers, per information provided by West Virginia American Water.
5. What Do I Do When My Drinking Water Is Turned Back On?
Once your water service is restored, it is recommended that you flush your water lines as soon as possible. The Charleston Daily Mail provides instructions for how to flush drinking water systems while the Herald-Dispatch provides details on what other appliances should be flushed, including icemakers and dishwashers.
Both West Virginia American Water and the Center For Disease Control also urge all impacted residents to change all water filters currently in use as soon as possible after this contamination situation ends – including refrigerator and icemaker water filters, faucet water filters, filters used in water pitchers or dispensers, reverse osmosis filters and shower filters.
All products linked to above are available at DiscountFilterStore.com – and all orders will ship within one day of order placement. Through this month, we are also offering free shipping to all West Virginia residents. Just use the code WV at checkout.
6. My Water Is Back On But It Still Has A Funny Smell and Is Discolored. Is it safe?
Per information provided by West Virginia American Water, the rapid increase in water flow – common when water restrictions are lifted – can stir sediment within the main lines and create discolored water conditions. Odors, meanwhile – (ie a distinct ‘licorice’ smell) can be detected at levels far below the level that the CDC determines is protective of public health.
If you have any additional questions regarding the chemical spill and drinking water contamination in West Virginia, we would encourage you to visit the West Virginia American Water website for real-time updates.