Even As Ban Lifts, Many Remain Wary Of Tap Water | KCUR

Even As Ban Lifts, Many Remain Wary Of Tap Water

Jan 15, 2014
Originally published on January 15, 2014 6:44 pm
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

It's day seven of West Virginia's water crisis. More than half of households and businesses affected by last week's chemical spill now have safe tap water, that's according to the local utility, West Virginia American Water. Officials say they've been routinely testing for lingering traces of the chemical. Out of an abundance of caution thought, authorities are advising pregnant women to drink only bottled water until further notice. Distribution sites in the Charleston area continue to hand out free bottled water to anyone who wants it.

And NPR's Hansi Lo Wang caught up with several residents who've been told their water is safe, but just not trust it.


HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Bottled water is still a hot commodity in Charleston, where volunteers stop passing cars outside of Family Dollar.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Keep it coming...

WANG: Sixteen hundred cases roll off a truck one by one in the parking lot, where Lucretia Lucas - a Family Dollar store manager, volunteering from Whitesville, West Virginia - helps hand out water.

LUCAS: A lot of places still are not out of the zone. So they're still, you know, under the watching thing.

WANG: Tom Gross bypassed the water line and headed straight for this car. He says the water in his home in Charleston is fine.

You drinking it?


WANG: Showering with it?


WANG: Cooking, cleaning?


WANG: It's back to normal at your house.

GROSS: Yeah.

WANG: Early this morning, the water ban was also lifted Dale Whittington's neighborhood in Sissonville. But he's still picking up a few cases for him and his daughter. He hasn't had a chance to go home to start flushing out the contaminated water.

Does it still smell?

DALE WHITTINGTON: You can't stay in the house for the smell.

WANG: What does it smell like?

WHITTINGTON: Licorice or I don't know what all. It just - I don't want to drink it, put it that way.

WANG: Neither does Tammy Coles of Charleston, who's picking up a couple of cases of bottled water on her lunch break. The water utility has given her the go-ahead.

So it's been declared safe by the water department.

TAMMY COLES: It has been declared safe by the water but I'm just not trusting it right now. I shower with it but that's about it.

WANG: Kermit Lawson, of Charleston, says he's lost his confidence. Before the chemical spill he drank and cooked directly from the tap. But now?

KERMIT LAWSON: Well, the trust factor.


LAWSON: Yeah, there's a trust factor involved now.

WANG: Lawson has flushed his home water pipes three times since the ban was lifted in his neighborhood yesterday. But he's still planning to rely on bottled water. And he's not sure when he's going to stop.

LAWSON: It won't be tomorrow. And I don't think that it will be a month from now either.

ALLISON MCGUINESS: That's a lot chemicals, it's just not going to disappear in a couple of days. There's no way.

WANG: Allison McGuiness, a single mother of two living in Charleston, is also skeptical.

MCGUINESS: We've got blue sludge, dirt coming out of the pipes.

WANG: Even this morning?

MCGUINESS: Even this morning. It's still rough because my little guy had surgery. So I'm bathing him in the baby pool in my kitchen, try to keep them clean because he's got open wound.

WANG: The tap water in McGuiness's home was declared safe two days ago. But as long as water distribution sites are still in place, she says she'll be back for more bottled water.

Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, Charleston, West Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.