- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

TANNER, Ala. (AP) - Emergency workers are running out of bottled water in two north Alabama counties where a utility told people not to drink their tap water because of chemical contamination, but officials said Friday a new water-sharing agreement could help.

Decatur Utilities said it would supply as much as 2.8 million gallons of water a day to help the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority, which last week told its 10,000 residential and business customers in the Tennessee Valley not to consume tap water.

Residents quickly snapped up free water available at fire stations and other locations. Officials said the water from Decatur should help ease a run on bottled water in the area, where store shelves were stripped clean of packaged water and donated supplies went faster than expected.

“It’s going to be fine. I see the calming of the panic,” said Jacob Crowell, operations manager for the Morgan County Emergency Management Agency. “In the beginning it was not fun.”

In a statement, Gov. Robert Bentley said the West Morgan-East Limestone authority would purchase water from Decatur Utilities and blend it with water from the West Morgan-East Limestone system to reduce concentrations of two chemicals, PFOS and PFOA.

Bentley said the mixed water should have lower chemical levels than those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, which recently tightened its rules for the chemicals.

“Having safe drinking water is essential and I want everyone to feel confident in their water source as we jointly work toward a permanent solution,” he said.

If the solution doesn’t work quickly, Crowell said agencies are still receiving donated water.

“Supplies are low, but people are still coming in steadily and delivering water,” he said. “It’s donations from people and companies.”

The West Morgan-East Lawrence system has both publicly and in a lawsuit blamed industry for chemicals in water pulled from the Tennessee River. A leading manufacturer in the area, 3M Co., has said it followed environmental regulations and denies there’s any proven harm.

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