W.Va. Water Customer Still Afraid To Use 'Safe' Water

Tim Sharp

Updated Thu, Jan 16, 2014 10:25 am

Terry and Mary Williams are now listed as "blue-zone"  customers of West Virginia American Water company but they're still not touching their faucets.

The Williams are one of tens of thousands of households affected by last week's chemical contamination of the water supply by Freedom Industries.

At first they were deemed to be in the red-zone according to the water company's interactive usage map.

Yesterday they were instructed to flush their lines and begin using water as normal.

That announcement encouraged Terry Williams, but word soon spread that even the "safe" water was still causing problems.

"We've heard many reports of people getting sick after they started using the water again even following the flushing procedures and we're not sure it's clean enough to use yet."

So the Williams' household is getting its water the old-fashioned way.

"We have a large horse drinking-water container, a 100-gallon container that we're putting under the downspout collecting water there and carrying it in in buckets for flushing toilets and some incidental work.

Other water is being supplied by their church in the Teays Valley area. 

Williams said he is bringing that water home in four-gallon containers and using that for cooking and drinking.

He said he expected this crisis to last at least a week and it looks as if it that will be an accurate prediction.

Williams says he is at least mildly angry about the affair.

"I keep thinking what if this was a stronger chemical that had no taste ... more dangerous, more potent.  What if It didn't have this taste that alarmed people.  Especially in the main water plant there in Charleston? "Williams ponders. 

He says this is a warning that things could have been much worse in such a case.

"How many people would have been sickened and died before they even figured out where it was coming from and what it was and how many other, perhaps thousands would have been made deathly sick by it? That part really alarms me."

Beyond the inconvenience and illnesses already experienced, Williams is unhappy with the way the companies have responded to the crisis.

"Certainly freedom industries has tried to be as guarded as possible instead of being forthcoming with information.  Even the water company in my opinion has been quick to blame Freedom Industries for everything excusing themselves for any of their failures," he said.

Then there's the issue of expenses associated with the spill. 

Many are having to purchase water and cleaning materials because the water has been so tainted. 

And while West Virginia American Water is offering a $5 credit for flushing their lines, Williams says there are other costs for the hundreds of thousands affected.

"For sewer purposes the water will still count as having been used and sanitized through the sewer system so there is an additional expense there and that's assuming you only have to flush one time. If you have to flush multiple times no compensation is being offered for that at all to my knowledge."

Williams says he's not likely to join lawsuits connected to the crisis but he said he does see the benefits of such action.

"It's an attractive proposition if only to put these companies on notice that you can't do this stuff."

"We depend on this water and it’s become a lifestyle that we're accustomed to and we're paying for and we pay every month. We have a reasonable expectation to have good service and not dangerous service."