CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It wasn't a "big deal" when Highland Hospital installed a recycled water laundry facility when its new building opened in 2012, but that decision worked out pretty well during the water crisis earlier this month.
Highland did about 5 tons, or 10,000 pounds, of laundry in the first week of the "do not use" water advisory -- the result of a chemical spill that contaminated the region's drinking water -- for Charleston Area Medical Center, Boone Memorial Hospital, area nursing homes and its own facility.
Working with area hospitals to share resources in times of crisis is part of Highland's emergency preparedness plans.
Hospital staffs coordinated their efforts. Many did priority laundry, such as linens used in trauma units, around the clock for the first few days of the water ban.
Meadowbrook Acres -- a nursing home that took advantage of Highland's laundry system -- said the hospital "went beyond the call of duty" in a thank you letter to the facility.
Facility Director Todd Jones said the state's Division of Highways provided a tanker of water, which was pumped through the facility's ductwork and into the laundry room using long hoses.
When the hospital built its new facility, the Charleston Sanitary Board was concerned the city's sewer system couldn't handle the amount of water it might use, said hospital spokesman Jim Strawn.
Highland uses only about 25 percent of its water for laundry from West Virginia American Water, said laundry services director George Pauley. The rest is funneled from three 100-pound washing machines into a tank and distributed to carbon and sand filters. That water is then processed through an ozone filter and sanitized using a UV light, Pauley said.
The hospital has recycled about 1.4 million gallons of water since 2012.
While the laundry facility was certainly busy during the first week of the water ban, treatment for patients went uninterrupted. Both the hospital and the Highland Center were at capacity -- 93 patients in total -- but teamwork kept things running smoothly, Jones said.
"Our departments work together ... we do trainings, we do exercises to be ready for whatever might come," Jones said, though water issues weren't something they'd planned for in their drills.
All hospital departments met twice daily to check in. Water was brought in by one of Highland's vendors and staff prepared food on grills outside to decrease the amount of dishes that would need to be done.
"Everybody came together and organized as a team," Jones said.Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.mole...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.