Restoring Trust Five Months After Water Crisis

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than five months after the water crisis, the water company's president is speaking out -- working to regain customers' trust in the water.

Back in January, about 10,000 gallons of the chemical MCHM leaked from a storage tank at Freedom Industries and contaminated the water supply for nearly 300,000 people.

In some restaurants, like Bridge Road Bistro, you won't find tap water used for anything.

"We typically cleaned and made our soup and everything with the bottled water," General Manager Sandy Call said. "It was down to the nitty gritty where they (customers) were asking us, 'Are you serving the tap water?' and if we said yes, they would leave."

Following the spill at Freedom Industries, West Virginia American Water extensively flushed the system -- even flushing every small, dead-end main.

"We knew the customers, as long as they would continue to smell MCHM in their water, they would never be relieved of their concerns," WVAW President Jeff McIntyre said.

To restore the trust, WVAW spent a lot of time and money changing filters. McIntyre says test after test shows no MCHM.

"Water companies don't just guess -- at anything. We test, we measure, we analyze," McIntyre said.

The results are starting to show.

"These are our last two (jugs) waters," Call said. "We are slowly weaning our staff off of it, because there is confidence in the water system."

At least that's what customers at Bridge Road Bistro are saying. However, if you're still skeptical, the water company isn't giving up on you.

"Rebuilding trust is really about talking to the community, continuing to work with the community on any concerns that they have," McIntyre said.

There's also more work to be done just in case another water crisis would happen in the future.

WVAW is still looking at the option of adding a second intake for the water. There's also the possibility of connecting with other water treatment systems -- as an alternative.

In the meantime, WVAW continues to take extra precautions at its treatment plant -- including additional monitoring of the water coming in.

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