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Charleston Businesses Rebounding From Water Crisis

Reported: Mar. 19, 2014 11:30 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - Charleston businesses are still rebounding from the water crisis. And there are some which have never recovered. You’ll recall Thelma Fay’s Deli closed and it's new owner only had the business a few weeks. His closure came right at the heart of the crisis and his losses were just too great.

Eyewitness News spoke with Patrick Guthrie, who opened the restaurant Black Sheep Burrito & Brews 6 weeks ago, and, as we learned, timing and trust returning were his keys to a solid launch.

Rebuilding trust is an issue facing all Charleston businesses, in the wake of the water crisis.

"You've got to do that with every plate you serve, rebuild trust, right?,” we asked Guthrie.

“Absolutely!,” he said.

So before Guthrie opened, they installed nine blue containers, part of a massive carbon-activated water filtration system.

"We have several thousand dollars wrapped-up in just the filtration and testing to make sure our water is clean," Guthrie said.

And they paid a Michigan company to do their own testing.

"And it came back clean, so we decided to open and roll the dice!," Guthrie said.

There is no MCHM in their tap water.

"Absolutely not!,” Guthrie said. “We would not be using the water if it had any traces of that whatsoever."

They use their filtered tap water for everything, including their own brews.

"Well I'll taste it for myself, that's great," Bob Palmer, who was in town from Washington D, said.

"Does that make you feel safe about drinking the tap water?,” Pam Koren, from Pittsburgh, Pa., said. “Yeah, I'm drinking it!"

She giggled as she took a big gulp.

They've heard about our challenges here.

"It's just been really refreshing for me to see everybody around town, with the high school basketball tournament that's going on right now,” Koren said. “And really bringing some vibrancy and money back into the local community and businesses."

"Good old West Virginia water!," Danica Cunningham of Parkersburg said, as she took a big swig of the filtered water.

"Yeah, I'm not afraid of it!,” she said.

“Even if it was un-filitered?,” we asked.

“There's always going to be something in the water, but it is, what it is,” Cunningham said. “I'll drink it!"

Andrew Wessels was one of dozens of PR experts meeting in town and talking about getting past the crisis Wednesday. He said one thing is key in turning people's perceptions around.

"Taking control of the story,” Wessels said. “There's an old adage, if you don't tell your own story, somebody else may tell it for you!"

And many restaurants around town are still serving bottled water, though it's no longer free in place of tap water in most places. Even with all the filtering they do at Guthrie’s restaurant, he estimates they still go through about 25 cases of bottled water a week.



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