Updated Wed, Jan 15, 2014 10:53 am
More West Virginia residents affected by a chemical spill are being given the go-ahead to flush their lines and begin using tap water again.
West Virginia American Water lifted a "do-not-use" water order in areas of Kanawha and Putnam counties on Tuesday night, including parts of Dunbar, Winfield and Staves Branch. That brings to about 51,000 the number of customers for which the order has been removed.
About 100,000 customers in nine counties, or 300,000 people in all, were told not to drink, shower or wash clothes with tap water after a chemical spill on Thursday in the Elk River.
Water use resumed for some customers starting Monday. The company says the water ban is being lifted by areas to ensure the system isn't overwhelmed by excessive demand.
But for some people, flushing their system doesn’t mean things are back to normal.
According to WSAZ some people are reporting a chemical scent to the water when they flush their systems. People are also finding dirt and mud in their water making them cautious about using it.
"Once you run it for a little bit, that smell starts to come out of it," Sherry Swayne of Charleston said. "I'm starting to smell it now."
Swayne lives in a cleared zone, but she said the flushing process has made her skeptical and nervous for her kids.
"You get an extremely foul smell of licorice. Of course it's leaving something behind. It's crystallized right there," Swayne said.
Dirt stayed in her bathtub after it drained.
"I'm not understanding why it left so much gunk behind," Swayne said.
In her kitchen, the sink was covered in residue.
"This is what it left behind in the sink, right here when I did the flush," Swayne said.
Swayne said the water just doesn't look right.
"Who's going to bathe in that? Who's going to take a shower?"
West Virginia American Water officials said the cleared zones meet the criteria for acceptable use.
Officials said those areas show levels of crude or MCHM are under one part per million.
They said they have no indication the discoloration is from the chemical.
"It should be anticipated that there may be some discolored water in lines from corrosion in the pipes, and we expected this as a much higher velocity of water was moving through the system," said West Virginia American Water spokesperson Laura Jordan.
Still, Swayne said she's not turning on the faucet yet.
"Yeah, that still doesn't even look too good," Swayne said.
Instead, she'll keep using jugs and bottles of water until these issues go away.
West Virginia American Water officials said they've seen discolored water in the mains and from people's homes.
They said they are continuing to test water samples for the chemical.
In all, they said they've tested close to 800 samples since the crisis began.