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Miscommunication Leads To Confusion In South Hills Flushing

Reported: Jan. 14, 2014 11:49 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio)-- There was some confusion Tuesday morning on which zones were allowed to flush their pipes and which were not. West Virginia American Water accidentally gave the go-ahead to the South Hills area at about noon, only to put them back under the ban a short time later.

But it was too late. Some people had already begun flushing.

Cathy Williams said she and her neighbors all saw the same thing when they logged on to WVAW’s website, that their zone was in blue, so they all began flushing their pipes. Several, frustrating hours later, they learned they had jumped the gun.

Williams instructed Eyewitness News to lean forward and smell the water coming from her kitchen sink tap. The smell was still there and even though Williams has been told it's OK, she is skeptical.

“I do not feel safe,” she said. “I will not use the water for at least three weeks."

She has stockpiled bottled water and has pitchers of ice in her fridge thawing.

She has ice thawing out in a pot on her stove and had water already-boiled bottled water, to do dishes in a second pot on her stove. Williams uses hand sanitizer and baby wipes, and won't let the flushed water touch her skin.

Williams checked her computer at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

"And it showed red!" she said.

She checked again when she got up.

"It was still red at 8:15 in the morning,” she said. “Still red. 11:45, checked it, I said, ‘Wow, man! We can flush! Calling my neighbors. Hey, we can flush! I was sounding the horn to everybody. They all saw the blue. They all started flushing."

She thought everything was fine until a neighbor told her to re-check her computer.
"It was fake,” she said. “It's not real, so I go back and look, and it was red again."

She called West Virginia American Water, and someone actually picked up the phone. But that person could not find anyone who had an answer as to what happened with the map.

“I was terribly upset," Williams said.

So were her neighbors, who plan to have a celebration, once they truly feel they're in the clear.

"We're gonna have a water party,” she laughed. “But we're not serving water!"

West Virginia American Water finally gave the South Hills area the go-ahead around 4 p.m. Tuesday. And they said if you did flush before that, it would still be OK. Officials said samples taken when they accidentally had issued the ban were safe.

Williams said, so far, she’s out about $400 in supplies: Bottled water, sanitizer, hand wipes, frozen dinners and gasoline from trips to find food. This is money Williams said she and her senior neighbors, living on a fixed income can never get back.



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