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West Virginia American Pays For Full Page Ad To Communicate With Customers

Reported: Jan. 30, 2014 7:09 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 31, 2014 9:00 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) -- In a full-page ad in the Charleston Gazette, West Virginia American Water said it has worked around the clock to respond to the Freedom Industries chemical spill and it thanked Kanawha Valley customers for their patience.

"I'm not that patient," Jossie Ramsey of Charleston said. "But, I mean, I guess it's hard to restore faith in something that's kind of been destroyed."

"They're not really doing anything," Christy Viramethi of Charleston said. "They say the water is clear, but we still can't use it. You can't drink it. It still has a smell to it. They aren't doing anything to clean it up."

Longtime Charleston public relations expert George Manahan owns the Manahan Group, which has been working with companies for years doing public relations and ad campaigns. He said the water company's biggest problem boils down to one word: trust.

"There's no trust," Manahan said. "You have Dr. (Rahul) Gupta (Kanawha-Charleston Health Department) saying he wouldn't drink the water. You have a Marshall professor saying there's formaldehyde in the water. You have another person saying they would drink the water. So, if you're an individual, who are you supposed to believe? Who are you supposed to trust?"

Manahan said there is a way for the water company to possibly regain the trust of its customers, but so far its a move West Virginia American Water has not made.

"My suggestion is to bring an independent company in to do water testing," Manahan said. "Someone that everybody trusts, to do testing at the faucets in your house and not at some fire hydrant. Because nobody lives at a fire hydrant. I don't live at a fire hydrant."

In the advertisement, the water company said it is planning for community meetings and other public dialogues to further discuss the event. No details about those meetings were given, however.

West Virginia American Water declined to provide a representative to the Town Hall meeting sponsored by Eyewitness News Wednesday at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston. The water company also was absent from another town hall meeting on Monday in the South Hills section of the capital city.



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