CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After being forced to shut down and wait for water, businesses are reopening again in portions of the nine West Virginia counties where the water was deemed unusable for more than four days following a chemical leak on Jan. 9 on the Elk River.
Matt Ballard, president and CEO of the Charleston Area Alliance, said the threat of contamination from MCHM, a coal processing chemical that Freedom Industries was storing, cost the area’s economy millions of dollars each day and, he said, the hit was especially hard for certain businesses, “Our retail folks, our restaurants, our hotels, (places) where you need water to consume,” he said.
Ballard said those back in business should use #backtobizCWV for social media postings to announce reopenings. “You use that to let the public know, your doors are open, you’re open for business,” he said.
Thousands of people in all kinds of service industries, including wait staff, retail clerks and hair stylists, lost several days of work because there was no usable tap water.
West Virginia American Water Company issued a do-not-use water order for an estimated 90,000 homes and businesses on Thursday night. It was Monday, Jan. 13 before that order started being lifted in some places, but the lifting process continued a week after it was first implemented in others.
To assist people who lost pay, Andy Richardson, a member of Charleston’s city council, is helping with an effort called “Turn Up the Tips.” He’s encouraging people to give a little more in the coming days. “We’re family in West Virginia. Let’s work together, like families do, and help each other out,” said Richardson.
“This is not just Charleston. In the entire nine-county region, I don’t care if it’s a hairdresser in Clay County or a motel in Nitro or a pizza delivery person in Bancroft, let’s ban together here and, after we turn on the water, let’s turn up the tips.”
Ballard and Richardson were guests on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” which originated from the State Capitol.