CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It was a communication breakdown. Many residents in Boone County didn’t know about last month’s water crisis until hours after West Virginia American Water customers in Charleston were notified.
Boone Health Department Administrator Julia Miller testified before the House Health Committee Monday evening that she was in the dark until she heard about the chemical leak and Do Not Use order on the news.
“We did get notification about 6:30 p.m. or 7:45 p.m. from our emergency medical services,” she testified. “He said he was already getting the word out to people but he wanted to know what we were doing and I said, ‘We just found out.’”
Lawmakers on the committee pointed out that was an eight-hour gap between the time state emergency officials were notified about the problem and the time Boone County got the information.
Miller said, “We had no idea what was going on.”
The administrator stressed they didn’t hear from the company, the state or any public health agency. They were getting their information from the evening news.
“We were finding out restaurants were being closed other places. We didn’t have any idea of what was going on,” according to Miller.
She said as soon as they confirmed the information, they got the word out to residents using their county-wide warning system.
When the Do Not Use order was lifted nearly a week later, Miller explained they relied a lot on another kind of technology.
“We put it out on Facebook, on social media, that we had to get the information out,” testified Miller.
Lawmakers stressed the need for better communication in the future between the state and the Boone County Health Department.