A ban on using tap water has been lifted in at least three areas affected by a chemical spill in West Virginia, where some 300,000 water customers received "do-not-use" advisories last Thursday. Since then, water has been trucked in to the affected area, which includes nine counties.
West Virginia American Water residents were told they should use the water only for flushing toilets – not for drinking, cooking, or washing.
The "all-clear" went out to some customers Monday afternoon, but as of early evening, the blue "Water is Safe" portions were surrounded by red "Do Not Use Water" blotches on the water company's map that shows the affected areas and advisories.
Gov. Earl Tomblin and other officials first lifted the ban in downtown Charleston, W. Va., at a news conference early this afternoon, as the Charleston Gazette reports.
That was followed by a second all-clear sent just before 6 p.m., freeing most of the Kanawha City area from the ban, as West Virginia Public Broadcasting tells us.
And then, just after 7 p.m., the public broadcaster reported, "Zone 3, containing most of South Charleston, has now been cleared to start flushing systems within their homes and cleaning appliances."
The lifting of the ban doesn't mean thirsty customers should simply start using the water. Officials say they must flush their systems – hot water, cold water, and outdoor taps – before they use the water. Those steps were outlined by Mark earlier today.
Sarah Travis, a Charleston homeowner in the first zone where the ban was lifted, began flushing water pipes in her home shortly after the official announcement. She and her family have been relying on bottled water and rainwater collected in the backyard for cooking and cleaning, so she was relieved to finally hear her faucets running again. But she told NPR's Hansi Lo Wang there's another sound she's looking forward to.
"It will be a relief to hear the shower! That's what I'm waiting for!" she said.
On the Facebook page of West Virginia American Water, some customers complained Monday night that they had no water — possibly a sign that many people in their area were attempting to flush their pipes at the same time.
The water crisis began after a chemical used in coal processing leaked from a Freedom Industries plant and reached the Elk River and the water system. Officials say it could be several days before the water-use ban is lifted entirely.