It's been 20 days since the chemical with a licorice smell leaked into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia. The tank farm from which the chemical leaked, located upstream from the West Virginia-American Water Company intakes used to supply water to a nine-county area, is being dismantled. Federal HazMat teams are on site inspecting the emptied tanks and pipes, which are to be hauled away for proper disposal.
The Charleston Gazette Newspaper is reporting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has concluded the water emergency here in the hills is over. Most distribution sites where residents were able to obtain free bottled water have been closed. For three weeks, water company officials and the Governor have assured the public that the water is safe to use.
Unless you are pregnant.
Or a young child.
People here remain skeptical of the reassurances from officialdom. And if my own experience is any indication, they remain so for good reason.
Yesterday, I gave in and took a shower. And did laundry. I had wanted to wait for the one-month anniversary of the leak to do either. That seemed like sufficient time for Mother Nature to flush the Elk with mountain runoff and provide clean water to the utility's intakes.
But have you ever gone almost one month without a shower? Sponge baths and washing your hair at the kitchen sink with bottled water heated on the stove just doesn't cut it. So, since the ice cubes from the ice maker were no longer coming out purple and smelly, and since the bathroom and kitchen no longer smelled like licorice every time the spigots were turned on, I decided to chance it and take a shower.
Guess I should have waited. My hands and arms are now sporting an itchy, red, pinprick rash. Fortunately, my eyes are OK and I don't have the welts that the earliest victims of the spill experienced. On the off chance that the newly laundered sweatshirt was to blame for the rash, I switched into pre-spill clothing. The itching is less, but the rash is still there.
Methinks bottled water is going to be a consistent item on the shopping list for a long, long while....