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Water Survey Results Released

Reported: May. 12, 2014 11:24 PM EDT
Updated: May. 13, 2014 7:02 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - Results have been released from a study following the West Virginia water crisis.

The study conducted in Kanawha County indicated confidence in the safety of West Virginia American Water plunged from 90 percent to about a third after MCHM contaminated the water supply.

The survey also shows that most learned about the water crisis the day it happened, but about 20 percent didn't find out until the day after or later. Most people heard about the crisis from TV or radio, then by word of mouth. About 10 percent learned from that odor in the water or air. And 35 percent of the county only had a gallon of bottled water on hand when the crisis hit.

There was a public meeting Monday night at the University Of Charleston about the results.

"And you have to take the bad perception of the water and make it the best water," said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones as he spoke to the crowd.

Jones said it’s a lofty goal, and it’s still a major struggle to get past the water crisis.

"Our water is as clean as any other water in the country now,” Jones said. “But there's a perception problem out there."

And it's not just outside of West Virginia's borders. Here at home, there are still plenty of non-believers, such as Joe Merchant of South Charleston.

Eyewitness News asked Merchant if he is still not convinced about the safety of the water.

“Well, I think it's at least back to, it's probably as safe as it was, before Jan. 9th, but I'm not convinced it's necessarily safe, so I think they've gotten back to that point," he said.

And since the water crisis, he has stocked up on supplies.

"We've got a couple cases of water at all times,” Merchant said. “We won't use the water here again.”

Merchant said his household is using the tap water, but not for drinking or cooking.

Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said eight out of 10 people learned about the chemical spill the same day it happened. But social media played a surprisingly low role in getting the word out.

Merchant said he believes officials "should have probably been out notifying people in person, door to door. I think it was that important."

Eyewitness News asked Sue Davis of Institute what surprised her the most in all the findings.

“That so many persons did not find it necessary to go to the hospital," she said.

More than 60 percent of the people surveyed claimed they felt sick, but not enough to seek treatment. Davis said she still struggles with several illness, which she said were caused by exposure to MCHM.

"Because you can't breathe,” she said. “You're coughing, the phlegm is terrible, it's just a bad situation."

Davis testified at the congressional hearing early on, and told Jeff McIntyre at West Virginia American Water she has lost faith.

"I told Mr. McIntyre personally, you'll never have my confidence with the water again," she said.

The phone survey also showed a lot of residents violated the do-not-use-order. At least 80 percent of people surveyed bathed or showered with the water. About 40 percent drank it, but only 27 percent gave it to their pets.

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