CDC declares water “safe,” causing new confusion - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

CDC declares water “safe,” causing new confusion

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Barbara J. Reynolds, Crisis Communication Specialist for the CDC Barbara J. Reynolds, Crisis Communication Specialist for the CDC

A spokesperson for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said in an interview that based on its information, the water in West Virginia is "safe."

Barbara J. Reynolds, Crisis Communication Specialist for the CDC, used the word "safe" when describing the water still being tested in West Virginia, a change in the CDC's wording in previous statements.  In the past, the CDC used the word "appropriate."

Reynolds said during an interview, "The question came up on whether they would use the word 'safe.'  

"It became confusing, unfortunately, from a scientific toxicologist perspective that word has a very precise meaning but we have to recognize that you and I and others that are not scientists [and] use the word safe in more of a generic way."

"We were making more trouble for people than good by not using the word in the generic way," Reynolds said. "It's not from a scientific perspective but just in a lay perspective … saying the water is safe to drink, to bathe in and clean, is really what we were saying on the fifth of February we just didn't use the word."

Reynolds also reinforced that the CDC is not finished in West Virginia because it has changed to using the word "safe." She said the CDC is still actively helping the state.

Officials dodged the word for weeks following the leak, reluctant to call the water safe. Dr. Tonja Popovic with the CDC used a different word when she visited Charleston Feb. 5.

"We're not really talking about whether the water is safe, we're talking about whether the water is appropriate for use," Popovic said.

She later explained why some scientists avoid the word.

"We really just don't use the term safe," she said. "Because that does not well describe what we can do with the information we have."

It's a tussle in terminology that means nothing to those living in Charleston.

13 News interviewed 10 people at random Monday. One person said he thinks it's okay to drink the water. Nine people said they do not think the water is safe.

"Nobody could convince me it's safe," said Ramona Morris, of Charleston.

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