WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County emergency responders and volunteers said Tuesday they would continue to work to provide water and aid to area residents affected by last week's do-not-use advisory from West Virginia American Water.
At a Putnam County Commission meeting Tuesday, Frank Chapman, director of the Office of Emergency Services for Putnam County, said his agency and others have been working around the clock to provide water at distribution centers across the county.
"We had, from the time we were notified of the incident -- which was around 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday night -- within 24 hours we had started putting water into the hands of Putnam County citizens," Chapman said. "That's rare -- normally, you're looking at 72 hours. It was right around 36 to 48 hours before we started to see anything from FEMA."
The chemical leak from Freedom Industries, a chemical storage and transport company located along the Elk River, left 300,000 West Virginian American Water customers without potable water. Various local, state and federal organizations, including the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, were dispatched to nine counties to provide aid.
According to Putnam County Sheriff Steve Deweese, the operation in Putnam County ran more smoothly than he would have expected. Deweese, who has a military background, helped coordinate the relief efforts.
"It's nice to wear two hats sometimes, but sometimes it's overwhelming," Deweese said. "When all of this took place, I had foreseen a huge tactical nightmare, but it was not the case in Putnam County."
Numbers reported from the various water distribution centers indicate that Poca High School was the second-most visited site during the emergency, with the Charleston Civic Center being the first, Deweese said.
"We've escorted 26 53-foot trailers throughout the county since this incident occurred," Deweese said. "The good thing about this county is that we did not have our major hospital [CAMC Teays Valley] affected. There were a few nursing homes, but we could provide for them with box trucks and normal vehicles."
The county was able to achieve an even more notable feat, according to Deweese -- it was the only one of nine affected counties to never run out of water at any of its distribution sites.