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Protecting Our Produce From Tainted Water

Reported: Jan. 22, 2014 9:39 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 23, 2014 9:22 AM EST
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RED HOUSE, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) -- The water crisis definitely has us thinking about the way we use water and the way we look fresh vegetables in groceries stores. Have you ever wondered about those vegetable misters in the produce departments? Was that water safe? Most of the big chain stores had to ditch their stock, which was expensive given the price of produce right now.

We went to Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse in Putnam County, where they grow their tomatoes with water, to see how they’ve protect their precious stock, which is only a few weeks away from hitting area stores.

For a greenhouse, which lives almost exclusively on water, dangerous chemicals in our water supply could have wiped out this year’s hydroponically-grown tomato crop.

"We immediately turned off the controls to refill the tank," said Penny Goff, of Gritt’s Midway Greenhouse, who added, they have not turned them back on since the crisis began. "And they are grown only with water and fertilizer, so people are very concerned that water is going into the plant."

Their tank holds ten-thousand gallons of water, which is enough to last for about 16 days.

"Putnam Public Service District offered us to come offer and haul all the free water we could haul, 24 hours a day, they said just come get water, so we took 200, 300 gallon tanks on trailers and refilled our ten-thousand gallon tank with that water."

But they cannot continue like this indefinitely. There are 13-thousand tomato plants at their greenhouse, and their first tomatoes should be ready for harvest in early March. Eventually, they said, they will go back to tap water.

"We'll have to. Once it gets warm, these tomatoes today, are taking 6 ounces a day. In May, they take 120 ounces a day," said Goff, which will empty their tank every, single day.

Some stores, like Foodland in Charleston told us, their vegetables come to the store pre-cleaned and pre-packaged, so they don’t use those water misters. However, they are selling a lot of vegetable wash products, which claim to remove any harmful chemicals, waxes and soils.

"Our produce here at the store comes in already packaged up, or we package it, there's no cleaning involved in what we do," said Dorsey Newhouse, Assistant Store Manager at Foodland.

Gritt’s told us they sell their tomatoes mostly to all of the Kroger stores in West Virginia, to some small, independent stores, and they also part of the Farm-to-School program in Kanawha, Putnam, Cabell and other surrounding counties. Eventually, Gritt’s said. They’ll have no choice but to trust that the water which goes into growing their livelihood, is safe.



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