CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Business owners impacted by last month’s water crisis said they are still feeling the pinch.
Nearly five weeks after chemicals leaked into the Elk River and contaminated the drinking water of 100,000 West Virginia American Water customers, several business owners sat down with Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito Wednesday to share their stories. That meeting took place at the Charleston Area Alliance.
Anderson Haughey, who operates five McDonald’s in the region, explained three of his restaurants were impacted by the Do Not Use order.
“Being down for 7 days at 3 restaurants is a large amount of money! Then you still have costs,” he stressed. “You’re still heating the building and paying other bills.”
That doesn’t count the thousands of dollars Haughey shelled out for new filters for his soda machines. He said his restaurants in Winfield, Nitro and Cross Lanes are busy places but not as busy as before the water crisis.
“[Business] has steadily come back,” he said. “ I think as people gain a little bit of assurance, it’s just one of those things that time is going to be the key.”
Tom Minturn, the owner of Chick-fil-A at Southridge in South Charleston, has taken additional steps.
“We’ve actually done some independent testing of our water and it came back non-detectable but at the same time, people say they trust Chick-fil-A, they just don’t trust the water company,” according to Minturn.
And just like Haughey, Minturn said business is down. On top of all of that, when Minturn filed a claim with his insurance company he got some bad news.
“Our insurance company ended up denying our claims. Travelers Insurance is running from the situation we feel like,” stressed Minturn. “It’s been tough!”
In fact, of the dozen or so business owners who attended the meeting only one person hasn’t been turned down by their insurance company for coverage of the water crisis and that’s because he hasn’t heard back yet.
Minturn and Haughey both agreed until West Virginia American Water and local health officials say the water is “safe” to drink some customers won’t be back.
“Somebody needs to step up and tell these people that the water is safe and make them feel comfortable about drinking it again,” Haughey insisted.
Congresswoman Capito plans to meet with the CDC again next week. She said she’ll bring the business owners’ concerns to their attention.