UPDATE 7:50 a.m. TUESDAY    WVAWC has added the Edgewood and Southside zones to the lifted areas. Edgewood is on the West Side of Charleston and Southside is generally in the South Hills, Southridge, Montrose Drive areas of Charleston and South Charleston.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the first time in more than four days, residents in parts of West Virginia’s capital city are using their tap water again.

The first four zones of West Virginia American Water Company customers, part of the areas in nine counties that have been under a do-not-use order since Thursday night, were cleared to begin a prescribed flushing process on Monday.

Those areas were in Downtown Charleston from the Elk River east to the 35th Street Bridge, including the State Capitol, much of Kanawha City, parts of South Charleston and portions of North Charleston along with Charleston’s West Side.

“We’re finally at a point where the do-not-use order is being lifted in certain areas,” announced Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Monday.

The flushing process for homes and businesses involves three steps: running all hot water taps for 15 minutes, running all cold water taps for five minutes and then running all remaining faucets, including those outside, and appliances for five minutes.

Full flushing instructions are available here.

“Only customers located within zones that have been lifted should begin flushing.  If we have problems with pressure in the system, we will not be able to open up additional zones until those pressures are restored,” said Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water.

He said the timetable for fully restoring service for all customers would depend on ongoing chemical tests in the individual zones and the demand on the system as more and more homes and businesses resume normal water usage.

“If all the customers in the entire system, or even in small zones, opened all their taps at the same time, they could use ten to 20 times of the water that we can produce in a day,” said McIntyre of the reasoning behind the zone opening process.

“You will extend the time of recovery if you flush too early.  You will cost yourself money and you will waste your effort because you’ll be doing it before the water is safe,” said McIntyre to the thousands of people who will have to wait.

Even after flushing, McIntyre said there could be a lingering licorice-like smell, which is expected, but not considered a health issue, since the odor threshold for the chemical that prompted the do-not-use water order is about ten times lower than what is considered a safe level for drinking water.

An estimated 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM, made up primarily of 4-methylcylohexane methane, leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries along the Elk River in Charleston back on Thursday.

Information on what zones are cleared for the flushing process is available here.

On the interactive map, water usage is allowed in the blue zones, following flushing, while the do-not-use order is still in effect for the red zones.  The “go” zones were changed from green to blue to assist people who are colorblind.

Automated phone calls are also going out to those in zones that are cleared for water restarts.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but I ask all West Virginians to continue to be patient as we work to safely restore service to the affected areas,” said Tomblin.

Residents in border areas, along the zone lines, can call 1-855-390-4569 to inquire about whether their property is in a blue zone or red zone.  All other questions can be directed to WVAW’s 24-hour customer service center at 1-800-685-8660.

Since Thursday night, upwards of 300,000 West Virginians have been told not to use their tap water because of concerns about possible contamination.  Officials with the West Virginia National Guard said ongoing tests confirmed the levels of the chemical were low or non-existent in many parts of the system by Monday.

Company officials said water quality was being monitored in Huntington, as the chemical moved downstream, but test results confirmed only trace amounts of the crude MCHM, a chemical used in coal preparation, were going into and coming out of that treatment plant.

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Comments

  • Watering hole

    The Capitol and Governor's mansion are in the first zone lifted. How convenient.

    • Truth teller

      There is plenty to criticize in this incident, but as was stated repeatedly, this zone was first because of its proximity to the treatment plant and the hospitals which reside in the zone. The Capitol and Mansion had nothing to do with it.

  • Tired

    Just so those who live on a hill do not end up with false hope...it appears those who have a water pump that pumps the water up your hill is being skipped over.

    The good is we don't end up with the nasty crud everyone is getting in their tubs and sinks.

    The bad is we are probably going to be the last ones on the list (due to the pumps and we become a victim of low numbers/usage).

    What I don't understand....and maybe the media can help out....why are the zones so secretive? Does WVAMW get website hit revenue or something? Just post a list of the zones in order (you have a good idea of where you are going from start to finish) and let all of us prepare both physically and mentally to start flushing our system.

    Shauna....get some Kalie Cart in you and start demanding answers to the questions the public has.

    • Larry

      If you go the site where the map is, you can type in your address, they are not going by "zones" now.

    • I say

      Awwwww, poor wittle South Hills people have to wait. Can't wait to see them throw a hissy fit because they think they are so entitled.

      Couldn't happen to a snobbier bunch of people.

      • Tired

        I'm far from the South Hills area. I'm from the Elk River area. Most of which was included in the North Charleston zone. 2 specific areas above Mink Shoals were left off due to being on a hill. Crestwood and Credemont.

        But nice try to categorize me.

        • I say

          Not characterizing you at all. I said "them" not "you."

          Run along now.

  • Larry

    Please read and share this link.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-dangerous-is-the-chemical-spilled-in-west-virginia

    • The bookman

      Thanks Larry. Great info for all concerned.

      • Larry

        You're welcome, I certainly don't want to make light of this situation, it has been terrible for all those affected, but the risk to human health seems extremely minimal, and I do believe all of the plastic bottles will be a much greater negative environmental impact than the spill.

  • Benthere

    The State DEP and American Water shares the blame on the colossal blunder. How could there not be secondary containment on storage tanks a mile up stream from the water intake?
    Notice how Cincinnati is shutting its plant down for two days while the plume passes. WV Water continues to draw water when they knew the containment was present. Poor decisions across the board. As they say "Only in West Virginia".

  • David

    Early reports mentioned a 1,000 gallon credit. I think this was the first day so maybe Shauna would like to check on that.

    • Shauna Johnson

      Yes. WVAW President Jeff McIntyre said customers would be offered a 1,000 gallon credit to cover flushing. He said that should be more than enough since the average residential customer uses approximately 3,300 gallons per month.

      Gov. Tomblin said Monday the state is reaching out to PSDs to see if they'll extend a similar credit to cover the wastewater from the flushing.

  • JT

    "Flushing will cost you money"... Excuse me but this shouldnt cost customers a dime.

    • Charleston,WV

      Agreed 110%!!!

    • Larry

      He was referring to the fact that if you do it too early, it will cost you money.

  • richard

    kanawha county was going to try and open on tuesday before they just announced at 3 oclock it woudnt be feasible because of the health dept. checking cafeterias. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING ANYWAY?????? just because the schools might have been ready doesnt mean the famlies of stdents are. there are still thousands of families that still havent been able to flush. these students need clean water to bathe and i'm sure get their clothes clean before they go back. glad they aren't having it on tuesday. do these kanawha county admin. not thnk logically?

  • flossrancher

    Whatever MCHM is present in Huntington, there has to be more in Parkersburg, Point Pleasant, and the other towns between Charleston and Huntington. Is anyone checking these out?

    • Art in Ohio

      Parkersburg is 80 miles north of Point Pleasant on the Ohio River.

      • Larry

        That's very true, and Point Pleasants water comes from deep wells located north of the city, not out of the rivers.

    • realitycheck

      do you need a map?

    • Rich

      One needs to learn their geography; Parkersburg is above where the Kanawha River empties into the Ohio. Ohio river does not flow both ways

  • Woodchuck

    I would not drink the water even after flushing!

    • Tom P.

      For how long, Woodchuck?

    • Larry

      I wouldn't either, it's so hard to drink out of the toilet.

  • GregG

    Now if they are finding "trace amounts" in Huntington after traveling that far in the Kanawha river, I'd sure like to know the truth as to how bad it actually was when coming down the Elk River less than a 1 1/2 miles from the water treatment plant. Granted I'm not a chemist, but that must have been some pretty potent stuff. While they got the equipment in the area to test for this chemical, it would be interesting to see the test results of the water adjacent to places where this chemical is actually used. But I'm guessing that will never happen.

    • Benthere

      GregG you will never know the concentrations. It's impossible to do so. My family will not be drinking this water for at least a week after the flushing. If this happened in a large metropolitan area so much hell would be raised that resignations would be dropping every day. What is happening here.....everyone patting everyone on back for becoming a hero on a situation that should never have happened.