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Residents Deal With The Water Crisis

Reported: Jan. 10, 2014 7:08 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 10, 2014 8:43 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) - "Don't make baby formula. Don't brush your teeth. Don't shower. Toilet flushing only," Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water Company said.

With approximately 300,000 people with no water service, federal. state and local agencies are trying to get essential H2O where it needs to go.

"We ask that all West Virginians check on their friends, their families and neighbors," West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said. "Especially those with small children and seniors living in their households to make sure that they have enough water food and supplies."

West Virginia American Water Company's "no use" order remains in effect for nine counties. With water available only for waste removal and firefighting, drinking, cooking and cleaning supplies are desperately needed.

"Do not use your water," McIntyre said. "The only acceptable use, the only reason why we continue running this facility at the time is to make sure that we maintain fire protection and sanitation services for people. So the only acceptable use is flushing your toilet."

The governor said if you are running low on bottled water, don't panic. Help and supplies are on the way. If you live in the affected area the best step for you is to contact your local emergency management office for water distribution sites.

"It's an abundance of caution that we're taking this step," McIntyre said. "And people need to heed it. It's not, we don't do this lightly, tell our customers not to use the water."

Tomblin said the top priority right now is to get water to the people who need it. However the governor says a vigorous investigation will find out how this happened and how it can be avoided in the future.

"My DEP ordered the company storing the chemical to take immediate action and stop additional flows of the chemical into the Elk River," Tomblin said. "This discharge of pollutants is unacceptable."

Late in the afternoon, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection heeded Governor Tomblin's mandate and sent out a cease and desist order to Freedom Industries.

Meanwhile, a number if labs are continually testing the water to try to determine when it will be safe to use. Right now, the pollution levels are declining but they are still too high.

However, plenty of questions remain for the water company.

How did they not know what a chemical company a mile upstream from a major water treatment plant was producing?

Why did WVAWC not have a test in place for the spilled chemical, MCHM?

What if the chemical did not have any odor? How long could it theoretically have gone undetected?

Questions like those are just the tip of what is sure to be a complex iceberg, of culpability and irresponsibility.



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