CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has no problem using the water in his city. “I’ve taken a shower every day (since a do-not-use water order was issued),” he told Hoppy Kercheval on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “I bathed in worse stuff in Vietnam.”
State Adjutant General James Hoyer said he’s not avoiding the water either. “I have been washing my hands, here in the Capitol, and drinking water from the tap because I am relying on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the experts there, as is this entire technical team,” he said.
Much of Charleston sits in one of West Virginia American Water Company’s blue zones, meaning business owners and residents have been cleared to flush their water systems and resume regular tap water usage.
However, more than 120 members of the National Guard were still working with state health officials and those with the water company on Wednesday to run hundreds of water quality tests in other parts of the affected region where the do-not-use order was still in effect.
According to recommendations from the CDC, the crude MCHM that leaked into the Elk River last week and made it through the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant and out to almost 100,000 homes and businesses, is safe at levels below one part per million (PPM).
On Wednesday, Hoyer confirmed the level of the chemical, in the water coming out of the treatment facility, was at zero parts per million. He said that does not mean it’s been cleared out of WVAW’s vast system that reaches into parts of nine counties.
Results from more than a dozen of the most recent more than 600 water tests, he said, had come back with levels above the one part per million maximum. He did not specify in what areas those high levels were found.
In many of the zones cleared to resume regular water usage, residents were reporting a licorice-like smell from the water along with a taste even after flushing. WVAW said the scent was expected, but was not considered a health hazard because crude MCHM has a low odor threshold.
A lot of people remained wary, though, and continued stocking up on water from other sources.
“The next problem’s going to be when they cut off the free bottled water,” said Kent Carper, Kanawha County Commission president. “We’re on the precipice of that happening and people, at least in my county, do not trust drinking the water, regardless of what they’re being told.”
“These people didn’t do anything to deserve this,” said Jones. “I can’t believe this has happened and some people still don’t have water.”