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Water-relief tankers filled from Charleston water system

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia American Water pulled its bulk water tankers out of service in Kanawha County Thursday evening, after complaints that the water being distributed to residents had the same odor as the chemical-tainted water from last week's Freedom Industries spill into the Elk River.

Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre said complaints began coming in late Thursday afternoon about the now-familiar licorice odor in water given out at the Crossings Mall in Elkview and at Riverside High School.

"We were getting conflicting information as to where [those tankers] were filled," Sayre said Thursday evening. "We wanted to clear that up."

According to Sayre, county officials originally were told the tankers were being filled "off site, out of Charleston." After hearing complaints, though, they checked again with West Virginia American Water officials, who told them to take the tankers out of circulation, Sayre said.

Water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said the tankers had been filled near the plant after zero levels of the chemical "Crude MCHM" were recorded. "But to avoid any concerns," she said, "just to reassure our customers, we're filling up the tankers from another system."

Jordan referred to the Wednesday night recommendation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that pregnant women not drink the water, and said that had made people more nervous.

"We understand that people are a little sensitive, especially with that," she said. "We don't want to add to it."

Jordan said the bulk water distribution, with water from outside the tainted Charleston system, should be ready by Friday morning to resume at Crossings Mall and Riverside High.

Bottled-water distribution will continue at the Crossings Mall, according to Sayre, as well as at the Nitro Police Department, the Marmet Recreation Center and volunteer fire departments in Belle, Clendenin, Glasgow, Malden and Sissonville.

Earlier Thursday, Sayre said that -- despite the CDC's warning about pregnant women not drinking the water -- distribution points in Kanawha County weren't busier than they had been before.

"Really, all of the water distribution points have been busy all of the time," Sayre said. "No one really said when they stopped by they were there for that reason."

State government and water company officials, saying they were relying on CDC guidance, have declared a level of 1 part per million as the "safe" level for the coal-processing chemical. About 71,000 customers -- nearly three-quarters of the people affected by WVAW's "do-not-use" water advisory -- had been removed from the advisory area as of Thursday evening.

Those included about 12,200 customers in the Cross Lanes, Culloden, Hamlin, Poca and Nitro areas, as well as all affected parts of Boone County, which had the order lifted before 7 a.m. Another 1,800 customers in the Big Bottom, Bona Vista, Cemetery, Clover Hollow, Elk Two Mile and Valley Grove areas had the order lifted around 1:40 p.m.

Staff writers David Gutman and Rachel Molenda contributed to this report.

Reach Greg Moore at gmoore@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1211.


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