In January of this year, a massive chemical spill left thousands of West Virginia residents without useable drinking water. The mess was supposedly cleared up, but according to a new survey, many of those who drank and bathed in water from the spill are report feeling ill; some even after the do-not-use order had been lifted.
According to a Community Assessment Population Survey, conducted in Kanahwa County, about 30 percent of the 500 people polled said they felt ill after drinking the water. Though about 125 people overall said they drank water when officials had instructed them not to, about 40 percent of those who reported symptoms said they kicked in after the do not use order.
Traces of the coal-cleaning chemical, which spilled into water reserves on January 9, remained in pipes for months after the incident. Roughly 300,000 West Virginians were told to steer clear of the water for several days after the incident, but local officials told the Los Angeles Times that residents were wary for much longer:
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said there continued to be several complaints about contaminated water in the months after the spill, with schools in particular often needing to be flushed several times. “The plumbing system is a complex system, we’ve learned the hard way," Gupta told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "Sometimes what’s conceivable to happen is the flushing process may not have taken care of the school system’s flushing in one go.” "People are still not drinking the water," he added.
Earlier this week, reports emerged that inmates at prison affected by the do-not-use order were not given enough water at the time of the spill, and were forced to choose between drinking tainted water or risk dehydration.
Now, while some may have forgotten about the spill, the residents are left to wonder about the long-term effects of being exposed to the harmful chemical.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.