The ban on tap water for parts of West Virginia was lifted on Monday, ending a crisis for some of the 300,000 people who were told not to drink, wash or cook with water after a coal industry chemical spill tainted the water supply.
"It could still be several days before everyone is cleared to use water again, but officials were grateful to give the green light to about 6,000 to 10,000 customers. Gov. Earl Tomblin made the announcement at a news conference, five days after restaurants and schools had to close because they didn't have any water, and people were told to use it only to flush their toilets.
"We are finally at a point where the 'do not use' order has been lifted," Tomblin said.
Officials were lifting the ban in a strict, methodical manner to help ensure the water system was not overwhelmed by excessive demand, which could cause more water quality and service problems. An online map detailing what areas were cleared showed a very small portion in blue and a vast area across nine counties still in the 'do not use' red.
Customers were asked to flush out their systems before using the water again, and the water company credited accounts with 1000 gallons. The average residential customer uses about 3,300 gallons per month."
Officials cautioned the water may still have a licorice-type odor, but they said it was safe.