CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Now that West Virginia American Water has given their Charleston water plant a clean bill of health, customers are slowly being told they can flush their household water lines.
"My wife is looking forward to washing some clothes," said Tim Maddox, who lives on Virginia Street in Charleston's East End. Maddox and his wife, Laura, were flushing their water lines Monday afternoon after being given the go-ahead.
"We've been doing what everybody else has [during the emergency]," Tim Maddox said. He and Laura visited their daughter in Cincinnati on Sunday and took their first showers since the Freedom Industries chemical storage facility on Barlow Drive leaked 7,500 gallons of a chemical called Crude MCHM into the Elk River.
The chemical, used in the coal industry, was sucked into West Virginia American's water intake pipes just downstream, causing water officials to tell customers in parts of nine counties that they couldn't use the water.
Water officials issued a specific set of instructions Monday for flushing household water lines, and began clearing neighborhoods for flushing by zones.
Water officials posted a color-coded map on their website, www.westvirginiaamwater.com, to tell customers when it was safe to start flushing. Areas not yet safe to use water were to be in red, while areas where flushing could begin were to be coded blue.
Both the water map and detailed instructions on how to flush water lines are listed on the website. However, extremely high traffic to the website Monday afternoon made it difficult for many residents to get to the information.
Maddox said he couldn't get onto the website Monday, but heard enough information from the media to start flushing his pipes.
Water company officials were advising residents to first flush all the hot-water spigots in their homes for 15 minutes by opening the valves. Water company officials said residents shouldn't have to clean out their hot-water tanks if they let the hot water run for 15 minutes.
Residents were then advised to then open all cold-water faucets for five minutes, including running refrigerator water dispensers. Next, outdoor faucets were to be opened for at least five minutes.
Finally, residents were told to flush all appliances that make use of water. Ice in icemakers should be thrown away, filters changed, and a second batch of ice made and discarded. The ice tray should also be washed.