CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some restaurants in Kanawha and Putnam counties will soon be reopening, provided they can find a way to get clean, hot water into their facilities, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
All restaurants, bars and other facilities that require a health license have been closed since a chemical spill contaminated area drinking water on Thursday.
Every restaurant will have to submit a written plan for how they intend to get water to their facilities. The plans will be reviewed by the Health Department, which will send a sanitarian to inspect the restaurant. Restaurants will have to flush out all their old water, and there will be testing mechanisms to make sure they do that, Gupta said.
Restaurants will use either existing pipes or temporary pipes to bring water in from an outside tank or tanker truck.
"Different ones are going to do different things -- we accept that," Gupta said.
Gupta said the Health Department would be open all day, every day, to review plans and inspect facilities.
"We're moving into a phase of emergency, not only the contamination of the water, but also the health and nutrition and safety of individuals," Gupta said, "as well as the economic loss and the employment of several thousand individuals."
Gupta said the Health Department also will help restaurants develop plans for getting usable water.
By Saturday evening, the Health Department had listed seven Charleston restaurants as reopened, but at least three of those restaurants had not yet actually opened.
There are about 1,500 businesses with health licenses in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
He said many chain and corporate restaurants already have plans in place for situations like this, and it's just a matter of executing those plans.
Meanwhile, customers have been flocking to restaurants in St. Albans, the rare area in Kanawha County where water is safe to use.
Employees are doing what they can to keep up, but the demand is high.