- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - Martha Shipley’s story as a West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority customer is probably similar to those of thousands of other residents who have been advised not to cook with or drink the system’s water.

Shipley, 78, of Neel, said she quit drinking the water after last week’s announcement by authority General Manager Don Sims.

“I’ve been buying water, which I can’t afford,” Shipley said Wednesday morning while picking up several gallons of donated water at the Neel Volunteer Fire Department.

Several shipments containing thousands of gallons of donated water from grocery stores, food banks and others arrived in Morgan and Lawrence counties over the past few days to be distributed at five locations in each county.

Officials at four of the five volunteer fire departments in Morgan County designated as water distribution points reported that there was no large rush of people wanting water when they began giving out water Wednesday morning.

Shipley said she has stopped cooking with the West Morgan-East Lawrence water from her tap.

“I might risk it at my age,” Shipley said. “But my granddaughter lives with me. She’s 12. I’m not going to risk it with her.”

West Morgan-East Lawrence customers were notified by mail that water sample tests have found levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) that put the system under a health advisory from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA instructed authorities with levels of the chemicals in drinking water above the health advisory amount to notify their customers and take steps to lower the levels. It said the chemicals may be associated with various types of cancer, with developmental problems for fetuses and breast-fed infants, and other health problems.

Trinity resident Glenda Short, who was getting water at Mud Tavern Volunteer Fire Department with her husband Bobby, said they quit drinking the water and she’s had to stop canning vegetables because of the water scare.

“We bought water,” Glenda Short said. “We had to go everywhere to find it.”

West Morgan-East Lawrence has filed a federal lawsuit against 3M and two other companies, claiming they are the source of the two chemicals found in the system’s water. 3M has said it quit using the chemicals a decade ago and that it was in compliance with environmental permits while using the chemicals.

“I think it’s sorry of 3M,” Bobby Short said. “They did the whole community a disservice. All for profit with no regard for the community.”

West Morgan-East Lawrence announced it would increase its water rates $1.20 per 1,000 gallons beginning in the next billing cycle to help pay for a $4 million temporary filtering system to reduce the level of the two chemicals in the water.

At Mud Tavern on Wednesday morning, Trinity residents Sylvia Turner, 71, and Shelby Randolph, 76, both said they’re on a fixed income and that the rate increase would be a burden on them.

“I have enough bills as it is,” said Randolph, who has five people, including a granddaughter who is bottle fed, living with her.

Randolph’s bill last month for using 4,400 gallons of water would have been $5.28 more if the increase had been in effect.

Tanner’s bill for 6,300 gallons of water used last month would have been $7.56 more if the increase had been in effect.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said of the rate increase. “What’s a senior supposed to do?”

Willie Shelton of Punkin Center, who was getting water at the Punkin Center Volunteer Fired Department, said she was drinking bottled water before the announcement. She’s now started making tea and coffee with bottled water, too.

“I guess I’ll just keep buying it,” Shelton said.

Boiling water does not remove the chemicals, according to the EPA.

Lisa Elrod of Speake, who was getting water at the Danville Volunteer Fire Department, said she is now cleaning vegetables for cooking with bottled water.

“A gallon of water goes mighty fast,” she said.

Mud Tavern Capt. Travis Tanner said Wednesday morning that he expected a steady stream of customers during the day. Punkin Center Capt. Stanley Linderman said he expected business to pick up in the afternoon when people got off work.

Cary Lacy, secretary/treasurer of the Neel department, said a long line of people wanting water greeted volunteers when they began giving out water, but that line thinned out after about an hour.

“We’ve had a lot of people come by,” she said. “They’ve been nice and polite. We’re just here helping meet their needs.”

Danville Fire Chief Steve Vest said some residents who came to the Danville station declined to take as much water as they could have gotten.


Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml



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