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Health Officials Address Safety Of Water

Reported: Jan. 15, 2014 11:19 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 16, 2014 2:02 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – (Stefano DiPietrantonio) – Throughout the entire flushing process, officials with West Virginia American Water have been saying the water, once it’s been flushed in areas where the ban has been lifted, is safe.

Eyewitness News has not exactly heard glowing endorsements from top health officials on the safety of that flushed water.

Dr. Rahul Gupta told Eyewitness News on Wednesday that West Virginia American Water says the water is safe, but, he added, as long as there is an odor in the water and an odor in the air, no one is going to feel safe.

"We have to trust, right now, what they're saying,” Gupta said. “There's no reason not to trust. There's no reason not to believe them."

Gupta said he understands the public's skepticism for West Virginia American Water's claim that the water is safe. The fact is, he said, we don't have water quality safety experts at the health department or across the state of West Virginia.

"We depend on the West Virginia American Water to give us that guidance, and it seems like the guidance is, the water is safe, and we obviously have to take their word for it," Gupta said.

But everyone Eyewitness News asked shook their heads and said that's more than they can swallow right now.

"I don't want any part of it," one man said.

One woman agreed.

"I'm gonna stick with bottled water,” she said. “I don't think it's safe!"

One man said his family and kids will not use the tap water.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “We're gonna wait awhile."

Gupta said the long-tern health effects are not known.

"That's one of my major concerns at this point is, we believe it's a safe chemical, long-term, but we don't know that," he said.

Gupta also said the fact that some people have not been able to shower or get clean for seven days or more means there's going to be a natural skin irritation. Add to that, the extreme stress of the unknowns with this situation, which can also trigger a skin reaction.

"We have also seen a little spike in the emergency room visits as a result of that," Gupta said.

He also added the Health Department will be doing some long-term surveillance over the next several years, to make sure there are no long-lasting effects from the spill.

Gupta said if you develop symptoms, call the poison control center.



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