Refilling used water jugs could pose a health hazard - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Charleston, WV residents learn refilling used water jugs could pose a health hazard

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People wait in line for bulk water. People wait in line for bulk water.

Judy Harrison stood at the bulk water distribution location near Patrick Street in Charleston, WV clutching the empty water jugs she had brought from home.

"Well we are just getting them refilled. I've been buying water all of the time and today I decided to refill jugs," Harrison said.

She said up until now she had been buying gallons of water at the grocery store. But as her fear of the tap water continues, the cost of buying water for cooking and drinking is getting to be too much.

So she waited among about 20 strangers for access to one of a few faucets on the back of a tanker truck in the middle of the parking lot.

Some had trash bags full of empty jugs. Others made several trips from their vehicles to the back of the tank or carried what they could while standing in line.

But there may be a concern Harrison and the others hadn't thought to worry about. According to Laura Jordan, the External Affairs Manager for West Virginia American Water, the company's state water quality manager said people should be cautious about re-using the jugs.

"Our state water quality manager suggest customers should not use containers like empty milk cartons as it can be extremely difficult to clean them to prevent bacteriological contamination," Jordan said Monday.

She said in the process of trying to avoid danger people could be putting themselves in danger.

"Our recommendation is that any plastic container should be sanitized periodically. Washing them with dish detergent and warm water and rinsing thoroughly before refilling is normally adequate," Jordan said Monday. "The complication is with the shape of the small-mouthed one-gallon jugs in which water and milk are typically sold, and careful attention should be paid to washing them thoroughly, including the hollow area inside the handle."

People in line Monday said in some cases they have reused their jugs 3 or 4 times. Most said the only rinsing they do is to swish around the last bit of water left in the jug.

Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre said West Virginia American Water is providing the bulk water at the request of West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, but county officials are coordinating the distribution sites through the state.

She said even though the tanker at Patrick Street is labeled Pennsylvania American Water, the actual water that is being distributed is coming from Montgomery, WV and Huntington, WV.

Laura Jordan with West Virginia American Water said care is being taken to make certain the quality of the water being distributed meets safe standards.
"We continue to check chlorine residuals at our bulk tankers to make sure that water meets all drinking water standards. We frequently drain and refill them to maintain this appropriate disinfection level, since chlorine will break down and dissipate over time," Jordan explained.

She said the company purchased two new 7,000-gallon tankers that received food-grade washes before being put into service.

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