The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

January 11, 2014

Residents refuse to let chemical spill defeat them

BELLE — The Elk River chemical spill may have shut down their water supply and closed their restaurants, but residents agree won’t let it defeat them.

People from Charleston and its neighboring cities gathered at Riverside High School in Belle to fill everything from milk jugs to gas cans with drinkable water Friday morning.

“At this location we don’t have any limits on water,” Belle Fire Chief Chris Fletcher said. “Everything has been flowing pretty good, so we haven’t seen a need to set any limits. Everyone has been really cooperative.

“I would guess that we’ve seen well over 500 to 1,000 people. We have been here since 8:30 this morning, and until this truck runs out of water or they bring another, or someone wants to leave and go eat, we’re here. Everyone here is basically volunteering their time here.”

Those waiting in line said they weren’t mad, just uncomfortable.

“I’m not that frustrated about it,” Ryan Gardner of St. Albans said. “I’m a really big water drinker. I drink close to a gallon a day, if not more. I didn’t get the chance to take a shower, so that’s kind of bothering me. Other than that I’m trying to not make too big of a noise.

“I’m sure they’ll take care of everybody. It’s not like we’re the biggest area ever. We’ve got help coming from FEMA and the water company, so things are getting fixed. I should be more frustrated, but I think I just find it a little more funny than frustrating that no one from the chemical company has taken the time to give a statement until recently.”

Most people in line said the thing they missed most were showers.

“Just the routine, everyday tasks like showering, washing clothes, cleaning dishes and that type of thing can’t be done,” David Fontalbert of Charleston said. “It’s difficult when you can’t use the facilities at work, but everyone is doing what they can and that’s all you can do in this type of situation.

“The county and the municipalities around Kanawha have responded as well as possible. There will be much more to come out later I’m sure, but we have to place responsibility on the response of the company that polluted the river. I’m sure that’s a feeling shared by most of the residents around.”

Fontalbert said he thinks recent experiences helped prepare people for this sort of thing.

“Having gone through (Hurricane) Sandy and the derecho a couple of years ago, it’s not a shock or something that we haven’t seen before,” he said. “We could anticipate the shortages and the response from the citizens, like the panic, and that’s one of the things that’s most dangerous to everyone else. It’s just something we have to take in stride and help our neighbors.”

Not everyone felt the same.

“I think they should have told us before they got started with all of this,” Harlan Flowers of Campbell’s Creek said. “Here I took a shower at 2:30 yesterday and then they let the horse out of the bag later. “I think they just didn’t want to get in trouble. I know you can get sued, but you have to let people know. We pay their bills. You’d think they’d have sensors in the water that can detect something like this as soon as it happens.”

Another man in line said this event felt like adding insult to injury.

“Losing water on top of all of the cold weather we’ve had that froze lines has been a little rough,” Dallas Townsend of Campbell’s Creek said. “It is good that water is being brought in to us for us.

“With the long waits, I believe they could do better. If they had it sitting outside to where people could drive by, fill up their jugs, and then drive on, it would be much more convenient for the people and a lot faster. That’s what I’ve seen.”

One Charleston man said the water crisis put a real hurt on his business.

“The most frustrating thing about all this is basically not being able to sell the merchandise that you have here and not being able to get some more,” M&M Mart and Deli owner Fadi Maugaes said. “The timing of it is near the weekend and most companies don’t deliver on the weekend.

“I can call all of my vendors and nobody will show up to bring me my products. Running out of most supplies like milk, bread, water, is basically how this has worked.”

Maugaes said the health department showed up Thursday and shut down any place that was serving prepared food.

“They were making sure that we shut down after they heard about the spill,” he said. “They wanted everybody to close so we shut down the deli section so that we couldn’t make any sandwiches or soups. The fountain drinks, the coffee machines, all of the things that require ice or water had to be shut down.

“The only things we’re selling are pre-packaged items and groceries. I got a small delivery of 12 cases this morning and most of it is gone. It’s not going to last long. I got in 60 gallons of water and that didn’t last half an hour. People were coming and getting three and four gallons at a time.”

The external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water said the company doesn’t know when tap water can be used again. Right now the only safe thing to do is not use it.

“What we’re dealing with is not any type of bacteria that can be boiled off or disinfected off,” Laura Jordan said. “It’s an actual chemical that’s present in the water, even though it’s assumed to be very low levels.

“This is only something that can be removed through the flushing process. We remove it from the system and replace it with safe, treated water.”

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Two state tornadoes occur on same day

    West Virginia gets few tornadoes on average every year, yet two of them occurred on one recent day.
    While the sheer number of annual tornadoes pales in comparison to other states, they do occur in West Virginia, with its vast network of hills and mountains. Two of them formed 55 miles apart on Sunday night.

    July 31, 2014

  • I-77 tunnel repair complete

    Repairs to an Interstate 77 tunnel along the Virginia-West Virginia border have been completed following a truck fire.

    July 30, 2014

  • Another tornado confirmed in West Virginia

    Another tornado has been confirmed in West Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Pierpont, WVU-Parkersburg enter transfer agreement

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg has signed a transfer agreement with Pierpont Community & Technical College.

    July 30, 2014

  • Repairs set for I-77 tunnel

    Some lanes of an Interstate 77 tunnel along the Virginia-West Virginia border where a truck fire occurred are being rerouted for repairs.

    July 29, 2014

  • Veterans crisis center coming to Clarksburg

    The long delays for veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals have prompted The American Legion to plan a short-term crisis center in Clarksburg.

    July 29, 2014

  • Weekend tornado confirmed in West Virginia

    The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado touched down in Pleasants and Ritchie counties over the weekend.

    July 29, 2014

  • Rahal: Fund VA reform ‘for our veterans’

     On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.
    Although final details are still in the works, the top two negotiators, Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., released a joint statement that said they had “made significant progress toward and agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.”

    July 29, 2014

  • Attorney general reaches $950,000 settlement with three financial groups

    West Virginia’s attorney general has reached a $950,000 settlement with three companies over allegations of antitrust law violations.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads