Water…or not

We made the news here in Charleston, WV.  It seems that there exists a several-thousand-gallon tank of chemicals used to clean coal (See here for a reddit discussion on it…thoughtful now but reddit often quickly turns wild wild west…so be warned) which is stationed along the river from which all of our water is drawn and processed.  The tank developed a leak recently…maybe yesterday and maybe earlier depending on who you hear…which leaked into the river.  Of course, that means that the water system pulled it in and ran it through the processing plant in preparation for distribution to everyone.

Water systems are designed to process typical stuff one finds in river water so this extra 5000+ gallons of stuff was not properly removed during the intake process.  No one seems to know how to remove it actually, even if it had been detected earlier.  That means the entire water system supplied by the water treatment plant was contaminated.  More good news…the plant that services Charleston, WV’s Capital and largest city, is the largest system in the state and supplies water to at least 8 surrounding counties leaving 300,000+ people with tainted water.

My family is among those lucky 300,000 so we are following the order to not use the water under any circumstance aside from fire protection (which we have not yet needed, thank goodness).  The water company is not at fault here but there are people blaming them for not notifying customers sooner (it took several hours for the entire issue to become apparent).  Some folks cannot believe that the water treatment plant didn’t detect the chemical until people complained of a “licorice-like” smell in the air, at their faucets, etc.  The water company replied that this was such an unheard of problem and that there was no good protocol to test or clean it and that they cannot possibly test for every potential contaminant.  Rather, they are designed to handle typical river-source contaminants.  I am not doing it justice but the water company has an excellent answer to the question and is not to blame here at all as far as I am concerned.  Instead, the owners of the leaking tank are completely to blame and I hope they find very expensive justice.

Ok, sorry for the rant.  Anyhow, people are behaving in all sorts of ways…some nice and some not so much.  There were runs on all of the stores for people trying to buy water, ice, drinks last night.  The local Sam’s club apparently went through 4200 cases of water in 1.5 hours.  Everywhere was wild and the cops were called into most stores to manage the unruly.  It makes me thankful that we have some water at the house.  Showering is my only real concern and I figure we will make it one way or another to get clean.

I heard that something like 20% of the state’s area is affected by this so we can’t just go to the next town over to get a hotel.  They are out of luck too.  Restaurants are closed, hospitals are on rationing protocols and stuff generally sucks.  Local government and FEMA are (from what I can tell) doing a great job in getting water to people who need it.  The big issue, from what I can tell, is that no one knows how to remedy this situation or how long it will take to work through the system/get cleaned/kill us all.

So dear friends, please consider keeping a bit of water for bathing and drinking in your house.  This problem hit fast here and may last for a significant time.  The unprepared rushed the stores and not all behaved appropriately.  I am very thankful we have water stored at the house so we didn’t have to go out amongst all of the people, some of whom were desperate.  While the government sources seem to be doing well in passing out water today, I am hoping to avoid those distribution areas as well as crowds have drawn there too.  It’s really a matter of how long this lasts though…we shall see!

Ok, that’s all from here.  I’d say we’ll keep a light on for you, but you probably shouldn’t visit right now!

19 thoughts on “Water…or not

  1. It makes my brain hurt just thinking about what an environmental disaster this is… and I’m sure we don’t know the full scope yet. My best to you and your family as you weather this chemical nightmare.

  2. Thanks friends…we are lucky but so many around here are going to have a really tough time and without a clear picture of when this will resolve, it could get interesting.

  3. GW – we have a cistern but I do not yet have the pump wired in and we do not have filtration in place yet…that just became priority #1

  4. Goodness Warren, what a mess! Praying for resolution to the whole stinking mess and God’s provision for our favorite West Virginians. If that happened up here we could bathe in our cement pond, but it would be a little nippy right now!

  5. Capri K- we are warm a least but it Sucks that we can’t use any water for anything. Bathing is the hard part. We are at a hotel out of town for the weekend. I feel bad for the people who can’t go away…

  6. Things are not really any different yet. The National Guard and EPA folks are around trying to decide what a safe level of this chemical is so they can flush the system and get water back on. Of course, a few things concern me about that…safe level means the chemical will still be in our water, apparently for some time. There is no good science on what safe really means so this is a best guess. Honestly, no one knows long term what is safe, if any amount but they have to get water flowing again so people don’t go crazy. I am not thrilled that a few government agencies are apparently the only ones making the decision on what is safe. In particular, the EPA and Nat Guard. God bless all those folks but I am not sure whether they are the best ones to do the science…maybe EPA but not the Nat Guard. Anyhow, there is a lot of bottled water here now so people aren’t quite as wild though showing in bottled water sucks. We shall see what the next few days bring…

  7. I thought of you immediately when I heard about this. Hopefully they get things figured out soon. It certainly reminds me how quickly things can change in the world. Since our water is also pulled from a river here, I think I am going to add another case or two to my normal stockpile.

  8. There hasn’t been anything on the news here about what is happening in the river itself. Are there dead fish everywhere? Are birds and animals dying? It’s all so horrible to think about.

  9. Lisa – as far as I know, there have not been mass deaths in the river. The river where the spill happened is a good river but it quickly dumps into the Kanawha river, a much larger river that, while not dead, is not great either. I think the dilution rate has made it tolerable for what does live there. I don’t know though…I think it is the long term effects that cause me more concern, both for wildlife and us

  10. While having our own well is sometimes a pain, when I hear about this I’m so thankful we aren’t on city water. It scares me that they’re telling some folks it’s safe already when it doesn’t sound like they really KNOW. Still praying for you all.

Comments are closed.