OHIO VALLEY — Though residents in Mason and Gallia counties weren’t directly affected by the recent water emergency in parts of West Virginia, they were indirectly affected as well as moved to respond.
First of all, residents of both Mason and Gallia counties should know officials from water providers in both areas have assured local water is safe to drink and should not be affected by the chemical spill. Contacted for this article and providing reassurance to this fact were representatives from the City of Point Pleasant, the towns of Mason and Hartford and the Mason County PSD in West Virginia. No one was reached in the town of New Haven though it’s believed due to its location upstream from the spill, like Mason and Hartford, there is no danger to drinking water.
Over in Gallia County, the Gallia Rural Water Association has had a higher volume of calls from its customers, according to Manager Brent Bolin.
“We’ve had about 20-30 calls; they’re wondering if the water is safe,” said Bolin, “But on Friday we contacted our EPA adviser who said there’s no danger with our water.”
Karen Kingsley of the Gallipolis City Water Department said the department has fielded a few calls since Friday, although none of the callers have seemed terribly worried.
“There’s been some calls, mainly from people who have read about it, and are just curious,” Kingsley said, also confirming the city’s drinking water is safe.
Also, drinking water providers in both Mason and Gallia counties have wells from which water is drawn - no drinking water comes from the river.
After quelling the fears of locals, residents on both sides of the river sprang into action to help their neighbors. According to Gallipolis City Manager Randy Finney, the city water department had a request for water from the Toyota Plant in Buffalo. The city obliged and delivered six truckloads to the plant on Monday and were planning to keep providing that water through Monday night.
In Mason County, on Monday, the Mason County PSD in conjunction with the Mason County Commission, set up a watering station at the Leon Fire Department to provide drinking water to those in need. County Commission President Rick Handley said the watering station will be open each day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the fire station until further notice. Those traveling to the watering station should bring their own containers - no tanks, please. Early on Friday, the City of Point Pleasant also donated 5,000 gallons of water to the West Virginia Army National Guard for citizens. Also, in Mason County, there were many untold stories of neighbors and churches assisting their fellow West Virginians.
The water emergency also made finding bottled water in Mason and Gallia counties quite the challenge initially. Shelves at the downtown Gallipolis Foodland were quickly emptied Friday evening, according to staff members, while Friday night’s delivery of bottled water at the Jackson Pike Foodland in Gallipolis had sold out by early-morning Saturday. Assistant store Manager Sarah Cochran said the store sold four skids of 24-packs of water between Friday night and early Saturday.
“There are 72 cases in each skid,” said Cochran, adding that the individual gallon jugs sold out first.
It was a similar story at the Point Pleasant Foodland, Gallipolis and Mason Wal-Mart stores and Aldi of Gallipolis. At Aldi, people were traveling from as far away as Charleston to purchase bottled water.