Water outage prompts health concerns

GARY, W.Va. (AP) — A southern West Virginia town has been without water service for several days after a pump broke, prompting concerns about a shortage of a precious resource during the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents of the 563-customer system are having to scramble to get water for doing things as simple as washing their hands — a heightened priority during the COVID-19 scare.

“Right now we’re currently in a health crisis due to the water outage,” city of Gary Treasurer Tracy Allison said.

After a pump in the city’s water system broke last week, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported residents have been using creek water to flush toilets. City officials have made donated bottled water available, local firefighters are making deliveries in communities hit by the outage and water is being provided by tankers from the West Virginia National Guard and the city of Welch.

Among the businesses without water service are the McDowell County Health Department, a nursing home and other health clinics.

McDowell County Commission President Cecil Patterson said the commission approved the purchase of a new pump with funding from a local Economic Development Authority. But Patterson said it’s not known when the pump would be available.

“We call every day to find out,” Patterson said Friday.

City Recorder Larry Barber called the outage “crazy.”

“We just need to be patient and relaxed and let everybody do their jobs, and hopefully this will be over by (this) week,” Barber said. “We’re just trying to take care of everybody, the elderly first.”

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.