CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the final areas of West Virginia American Water's "do-not-use" advisory were lifted Friday, a week after the water ban was first issued, some Fayette County residents were worried that water from the company's tainted Charleston-based system ended up in their creek.
WVAW trucks emptied their tanks into a creek there Thursday, but a water company spokeswoman said residents in Smithers should not be concerned.
The company pulled its water tankers out of service in Kanawha County Thursday evening after receiving complaints that the water being distributed to residents had the same odor as the chemical-tainted water from last week's Freedom Industries leak into the Elk River.
The tankers had been filling with water near the Charleston location, where zero-ppm levels of the chemical "Crude MCHM" were recorded, said water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan. She confirmed Friday that tanker water was dumped into a creek near Smithers. On Thursday, she said the tankers would be filled with water from outside the Charleston system.
WVAW workers apparently emptied the suspect water into a creek in Smithers before refilling with new water from the company's distribution center in Montgomery. The water dumped into the Smithers creek had been tested, Jordan said, and it did not test for Crude MCHM, a coal-cleaning chemical also known as 4-methylcyclohexane-methanol.
Smithers Mayor Tom Skaggs said he called the water company's Montgomery distribution center Friday, after several people complained about the dumping. Several residents, including a town councilwoman, called him after seeing tanker trucks near the creek, Skaggs said.
He said that, based on the assurances from WVAW, he's not worried about the water dumped into the creek.
"It would have to go down the river and several millions of gallons a minute are running into Montgomery," Skaggs said. "If it's zero parts per-million, then it shouldn't do any harm."
Several water trucks have been refilling tanks since last week at a hydrant near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Bridge Street in Smithers, he said. No one at the distribution center knew of any dumping.
"They are filling trucks up right now, as we talk," he said Friday afternoon.
Jordan said the tankers now are being filled with water only from areas outside Charleston.
"We want to make sure we are getting it from a reliable source," she said. "We didn't want to add an extra cause for concern."
The last sections of the water company's do-not-use advisory, issued the evening of Jan. 9, were given the OK to begin flushing the pipes in their homes and businesses Friday afternoon.
Residents in the Buffalo, Fraziers Bottom and Pliny areas of Putnam County, however, were told Friday morning not to drink their water and to "have limited contact" with it, after earlier being approved to flush their pipes.
Jordan said she does not anticipate any more "limited contact" orders being issued unless testing proves otherwise.
Some water company customers were told to boil their water, because everyone flushing their pipes at the same time drained water storage tanks.