CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Shane Casdorph held out as long as he could before he finally took a shower Tuesday evening.
West Virginia American Water officials told his family they could use the water at their house in Kanawha City on Monday afternoon, but the licorice smell from last week's chemical leak was even stronger after they flushed their pipes longer than recommended.
Despite its cool temperature, the water Casdorph used made his skin feel hot after a four- or five-minute shower, he said.
"My ears were burning," said Casdorph, 24. "I've got red places on my feet and back and a red rash on my back."
Casdorph said he was hesitant to use the water at all because his mother had become sick the day before after she showered in it, although he said that might be because of a stomach virus.
"I don't feel sick or anything," he said. "I've eaten. I don't feel bad."
Now, Casdorph said, he wishes the water company had waited a while longer before allowing people to use the water again.
"I don't think it was handled properly," Casdorph said. "I think it was way too soon. I don't think they had very much information about it."
From 7 p.m. Monday -- hours after downtown and East End residents were told they could flush their pipes -- through 7 a.m. Wednesday, 101 people had gone to emergency rooms in the nine-county area with symptoms they attributed to the chemical, according to Dr. Rahul Gupta, chief officer for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Of those, 46 people had come to the ER between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday, Gupta said.
Their symptoms included skin and eye irritation, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea, Gupta said.
The odor from the chemical might cause problems in people who have allergies, migraines, asthma and other existing conditions, Gupta said. The emotional toll of the crisis also might be causing some people to have negative reactions, he said.
"We are seeing some cases that may be related to water coming back," Gupta said. "People need to understand that smells can trigger [reactions] . . . the water has been noted to be safe, per the water company. Having these symptoms -- reactions -- doesn't necessarily mean it's harmful. This is just something we're seeing. It, too, shall pass."
Dr. Richard Clapp, a professor emeritus at the Boston University School of Public Health, said it's not surprising that some people would be more sensitive to chemical exposure than others.
"That always happens," Clapp said. "There's always a range, and some people are more likely to have a reaction than others with the same exposure."
The water company waited until the chemical levels in the water were at 1 part per million or below. State officials have said the safe level is below 1 part per million, and cited the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for that number. However, CDC officials referred questions about how they arrived at that number to West Virginia American Water.
Clapp said he doesn't know if the water company should have waited until the chemical levels were lower in the water than 1 part per million. However, he said, those who have symptoms and have no exposures to other chemicals should stop using the water for now.