Recently I had “Warren” leave a comment regarding the West Virginia water contamination situation. Realizing that he was smack dab in the middle of the event I reached out to him with some questions and a request to share his experience with ModernSurvivalOnline.com readers.
Here is a first hand account from Warren in West Virginia:
I’ll answer your questions as best I can…
How did you handle washing clothes? We were lucky to know of a laundry mat just outside the impacted area. It is near a farm we own. The farm is our retreat if you will so we immediately set plans related to that location into motion. Many people are sort of stuck though as the very close-by areas that were not affected quickly got swamped. At home we have a HE washer but had stored some non-HE laundry soap for just this sort of situation. We had quarters on-hand also. Those two things were nice because we could avoid additional lines of people hunting for those things. We wanted to avoid people as best we could. We set out large coolers to catch rain water (the rain was perfectly timed) to grab water for additional clothes washing if this event were to last longer.
How did your preps help? For a few years now, we have kept water stored at the house and at our farm. We have plastic juice bottles that we labeled January and July so we know when to rotate and refresh the stored water. Our supply wasn’t enough for full-on showers but we didn’t hesitate to use it to stay clean. Drinking water was fine to with the bottled water we had on hand. Most people apparently had very limited water on-hand as evidenced by the runs in stores. Since we had water, I did not add to the chaos at the stores but folks I work with were in the thick of it and reported fist fights, slamming into each other with carts, etc. Some folks resorted to grabbing cases of water in the chaos and just running out of the doors. Police were quickly called in to manage the situation at all the big stores. The news reported that the local Sam’s Club sold out of 4200 cases of water in 1.5 hours. That’s insane!
Anyhow, we also keep baby wipes, and hand sanitizer on hand which helped too. The one large thing that was not critical I guess but that we will keep on hand in case this happens again is paper plates, flatware, etc. Since we couldn’t wash dishes, eating got to be a problem. Frozen food became a premium item as people couldn’t eat out (all the restaurants had to close). People who hadn’t stored water couldn’t cook food from scratch even if they had food on hand.
What had you wished you had done prior to make it easier? I wish I had a lot more separation of “stuff” between my house and my retreat. That will be remedied for sure. We will likely add more water to both locations as well. I bought an additional emergency alert radio. We will get paper plates, etc as soon as they come back in stock. After the fact, I added additional contacts to my social media groups…the water company, the news stations, the national guard, the governor. I’ll determine later what of those will remain useful but they sent out a lot of info via social media and I had to take time to find them on the fly. Some will likely remain useful while others will no doubt become junk. Charleston has a long history of chemical manufacturing and much of that remains today so I will probably add info on chemicals that are made here as well. We have had a few incidents with chem leaks, accidents, etc but mostly those are in the air so pass fairly quickly. The water is an entirely different deal and this chemical was not well documented (unlike the stuff manufactured here). Although this problem would not have been helped by water filters (apparently it passes through the just fine), I may add more options in that regard. We have monolithic dome filters but I guess I would have just ruined them had I tried. I have rain barrels but I haven’t managed them well so we may do something different there too.
What kind of stories did you hear regarding other people? Lots of people went into panic mode very quickly. People jumped at getting water and any drinkable liquid. Folks bought up ice quickly as well. I think people got pretty clever pretty quickly. One of my buddies heard the alert on the way home and got off the interstate right away and bought 50 1-gallon bottles. He knew he wasn’t affected but jumped into action for our group of friends who he knew were affected. He beat the rush as he was outside of town when the news hit. Quick thinking helped our community of friends immensely. Quick thinking and community are super important and I see that even more clearly now! Lots of folks got sick as soon as they heard there was a smell in the air…not really sick, but many convinced themselves they were nauseous from it. Well, who am I to say? Maybe they did get sick. The smell was definitely in the air and in the water (actually, it still is) Anyhow, most people panicked for a short bit but then settled down. I am really pretty proud of how the majority of people reacted. Some little “suburb-towns” around had independent water supplies so many people in those spots put out the word on social media that friends were welcome to come and get water/shower/etc . People who didn’t have social media or who were very reclusive (and also shut-ins, etc) probably suffered a lot more than people who had community.
Lots of other people checked on neighbors…I heard this all over…and made sure they had supplies. Our neighborhood communicated around pretty quickly and made sure we were ok. I was super proud of so many folks for that. The chemical company who had this leak created a PR nightmare for themselves with their response but the water company did a great job of providing info and updates. They are giving everyone credits of 1000 gallons on our water bills too so we can flush out systems for free. That was all a surprise to me. And probably the biggest surprise was how fast state and local (and maybe fed?) government responded and how well. They very quickly got water trucked in both as bottles of water and in large water tanks. Vol fire depts in surrounding communities also steppe dup quickly. All-in-all, the large scale response was pretty impressive.
Do you have any fear that residual chemicals showing up after the situation is “fixed” could cause issues? I absolutely am concerned about residual chemicals. Apparently the determination regarding a “safe level” of the chemical is based on a 20+ year old non-peer reviewed study dealing with lethality in rats. There is apparently little known about this chemical especially in the water supply. All that being said, we are warned that the licorice smell (and thus the chemical itself) will remain in our water for an unknown time. The authorities are opening water usage in zones so people can flush their water systems but caution us that the smell will remain. It will apparently be a “safe level”, but that brings me little comfort. Long term exposure effects have not been studied at all apparently. Someone likened it to smoking a cigarette today and saying, “see, no harm”. Long term is what concerns me more. We ran out and got a new water filter for our water system before everyone else runs out as it was recommended that filters be replaced after we flush our systems. Still, I am concerned that trace chemicals will stay in my new filter even after the flush…the chemical will still be there after all. Our intention is to shower once our ban is lifted (because that is hard to manage with alternate sources) but we will not be drinking or brushing teeth with tap water for quite awhile.
What about people with wells? Are they OK? Well water is not affected by this. The spill site was in an industrial zone just outside city limits. The real problem is that the 35000 or so gallon tank (one of a dozen or so) was a stone’s throw from the river that is the source for the large water system. Of course, the leak site was upstream from the water inlets. So well sites are not impacted by this issue.
They are starting to lift the bans in zones, starting with the hospital zones. I figure we will be ok’d in the next few days so thankfully the end appears to be near for the city. Outlying areas may have awhile longer to wait unfortunately. We will be cautious as I am not sure that this is truly safe or over but hopefully we are on the right path!
Any last thoughts? One thing I am glad I had and that many people didn’t have was large water-safe tanks. When the water tanks were brought in, people had to bring their own jugs/bottles. Many people were shown on camera with milk jugs (which is ok I guess), large soda cups you would find at a gas station, kitty-litter pails, etc. Probably the worst I saw was people had (presumably) new gas and kerosene cans. If new, I guess that would be ok, but it just didn’t feel right to me…
I had several 7 gallon tanks which are large enough to be worthwhile but not so large that they can’t be carried. I also have several 55 poly drums but standing in line with those would have been bad because of weight of course, but making people wait while I filled a large tank? Not a good idea. 7 gallon tanks are just about right and can be found for $15 or so at the big box stores (but not in the middle of a water emergency!).
Warren maintains his own blog – it can be seen HERE.
Like what you read?
Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these innocent little items!
Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link. This will also subscribe you to my newsletter so you stay up-to-date with everything: new articles, ebooks, products and more!
By entering your email, you agree to subscribe to the Modern Survival Online newsletter. We will not spam you.