Many miles from the source of the spill that has disconnected West Virginia residents from their water supply, Sam Duffield said he can see people coming in off the interstate hoping to find a few gallons of uncontaminated liquid.
“It’s kind of difficult. It kind of shows how fragile our society is. When we have to go without water, people go into a panic,” said Duffield, who grew up along the Elk River near Clay, W.Va. Noting he was in Flatwoods, nearly 70 miles from the source of the spill that cut off potable water supplies for residents in nearly a dozen counties, Duffield said “I can see people traveling long distances to get water. They can’t wash, let it touch their clothes or drink it ... to go without water is just about impossible.”
Duffield said he works with people who live near Charleston “who can’t shower or even wash their hands” who are relying upon “good” water at their workplaces.
“It’s pretty hard on folks,” he said, noting he was pleased to hear the Elk River itself has not been affected as it runs through the mountain town of Clay, even though the water system in that area has been contaminated. Duffield, who works as a janitor, said he is not personally aware of anyone who has suffered ill effects from the chemical spill, although he is aware of people’s concerns about what will happen next, and how long the problem will remain.
“How are they going to clean those lines?” he asked, noting the contamination has undoubtedly been drawn out to the faucets in some residences.
While officials believe the contamination can be contained or dissipated before it becomes a problem in the Ashland area, Duffield advises local residents to be cautious and prepared.
“Water is going to flow downhill,” he said, tracing the Elk River’s flow into the Kanawha River and then to the Ohio River before leading to the Mississippi River, where many water plants have their intakes.
“It will flow downstream.”
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.