West Virginians Still Skeptical After Federal Health Officials Say Water is Safe to Drink
Many West Virginians are still hesitant about using the water. In the month that has passed since the leak was discovered, reports of new chemicals and updated information about the spill have created new concerns. Even after the water ban was lifted, conflicting statements from health officials and health professionals, as well as ever-present public opinions, have created an atmosphere of skepticism throughout the state. Varying statements from officials and medical experts this past Wednesday continue to send residents mixed signals.
At a press conference on Wednesday, federal health officials stated that West Virginians could use the water to cook, bathe in, and drink. Before the conference, however, the head of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department - Dr. Rahul Gupta - and the state health officer and commissioner of the state Bureau for Public Health - Dr. Letitia Tierney - made statements that did little to provide West Virginians with a clear answer.
Gupta stated that he could still detect a taste to the water and that many local physicians are encouraging certain patients - including young children, elderly individuals with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women - to remain hesitant about using the water. Tierney, however, stated that she herself was using and drinking the water. Federal officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated its stance that the water could be used however residents wished.
Concerns About Water Continue
What further seems to complicate West Virginians' opinions about the water - aside from officials at odds - is that concerns about the water are still a daily reality. Just this week, 14 Kanawha County schools reported odor complaints. Three of those schools dismissed students early on Thursday. As the concerns continue, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin stated that he is considering options to send teams into residents' homes to test their water in order to provide the community at large with peace of mind. For now, the only thing that may be certain is that some West Virginians are using the water and some are not; not much else.