CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When bad things happen, usually the only things you can take away are lessons - as in "it was a learning experience."
Having just completed Week Two of the Great West Virginia Water Crisis of 2014, I can say I've learned a thing or two.
Lesson 1: 4-methylcyclohexane methyl. The primary offender to Charleston's water supply. I was a biology major in college. I vaguely remembered what I was looking at when I saw its structural formula. I did remember how to pronounce it.
Lesson 2: Know your valves. As a homeowner for 12 years or so, I've lived blissfully ignorant of the maze of plumbing suspended above my basement. I know my limits. If at first you don't succeed, subcontract out. I've had my plumber's number in the memory of three cell phones, including my current one.
That said, I married into plumbing, so to speak,. My wife's dad is a retired union pipefitter and master plumber. He's well aware of my limitations as a do-it-yourselfer, so he's always been very patient answering my questions when I try to tackle a project.
This one involved draining my water heater. It seemed fairly straightforward - close water intake, shut off heater, let cool, then drain.
Except the water intake was stuck open and my efforts to close it, short of breaking the fixture, failed. So I had to test every one that could have possibly fed into that section of pipe. Ultimately, I wound up shutting off the main valve into the house, but not before figuring what the others in the basement controlled.
Lesson 3: Mind your pints and quarts. Previous to the Taste of Freedom Challenge, measuring tap water was pretty much limited to culinary pursuits - recipes, cake mixes and the like - as well as the occasional container of plant feed or garden herbicide. Otherwise, we just stuck our toothbrushes under the faucet or cranked up the shower and paid our bill at the end of the month.
While the all-clear has been given for the consumption of city water - unless you are pregnant or a small child, of course - my household is neither drinking nor washing with it as long as it has that tell-tale licorice odor to it.
So we've had to be fairly frugal with the stores of H2O we've either bought bottled or imported in 5-gallon dispensers from our hometowns of Parkersburg or Beckley.