Several St. Albans residents are furious because they say the city didn't do enough to inform them about a possible issue with the city water. The mayor said a computer glitch sparked the problem.
"I think they should have told us something. I mean, how do we know what is going to happen," asked Seth Allman. He said he and a friend had consumed a large quantity of tap water since Saturday.
Mayor Dick Callaway said a small amount of water from a clear water tank overflowed into the filtering system Saturday morning or afternoon. After the situation was corrected the city contacted the state to report what had happened. He said that is routine procedure in these situations. At that point the city was told to issue a boil water advisory and spread the word to the community by contacting media outlets in the area. Callaway said he was advised to report the notice to the media. He said it was difficult to reach media outlets by phone, including television and radio stations, because it was the weekend. He said the written version of the advisory was not emailed or faxed.
Greg Baldwin lives in St. Albans. He said he didn't find out there could be a problem with the water until Sunday. By that time he had already watered his dog and given his grandson a bath. "They are all the time coming around and hanging notes on the doors for shut off notices and stuff," Baldwin said. "They could just come around and tell people in the neighborhood."
Callaway provided 13 News with a copy of the written advisory. The notice said "conditions indicate there is a high probability that your water is contaminated. Testing has not occurred to confirm or deny the presence of contamination in your water."
The notice goes on to say that residents should "not drink the water without boiling first."
"The advisory sent as a precautionary measure to let people know to boil their water," Callaway said. "Of course the result of that was a lot of confusion."
Callway said he believes social media has allowed the incident to grow into something that seems more dangerous than it actually was. When asked if there was anything that could be done better to get the word out faster Callaway said, "We did exactly what we were supposed to do."
Some people still hadn't heard about the advisory Monday afternoon.
"Something, let us know something. Call, something like that," said Brenda Stevens.
Callaway said the water was tested by the city and is not considered to be dangerous. The advisory cannot be lifted until the water has been tested by the state. Because the incident happened on a weekend when the lab is closed Callaway said those final results have been delayed.
The city is planning to flush the water system Tuesday. The mayor said that work is not related to this weekend's incident.
According to the advisory residents can call Mark Smith for more information about the boil water notice. That number is 304-727-6757. Residents who are concerned about the safety of the water may also call the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.