Preparing for the Aftermath of a Chemical Leak
In light of the recent events in West Virginia and the impending plume we are waiting for in my area of the country, I thought I would post a little bit about how to prepare for life without running water for a day or two. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you think about how many things you use water for, it becomes a bigger deal.
When the plume arrives in Evansville, it is supposed to be “safe” according to the CDC’s standards. That being said, the recommendation made by the CDC was based on one study done in lab rats, but it wasn’t exactly the same chemical. The study also did not take into consideration that humans may be more sensitive to the chemical, among numerous other factors. From what I have read, the recommendation is actually nothing more than an educated guess. While I can see where the recommendation came from, there is still a lot that is unknown about how this chemical could affect us. Other cities have been able to turn off their water intakes so that their communities aren’t as affected by this, but our water supply is already low due to recent water main breaks, so that is not an option here. From what I understand, this chemical cannot be filtered out. The water department here is planning to use carbon to try to treat it, but they don’t know that it will really work. Therefore, my family is planning to take various precautions once it has been confirmed that the plume has arrived. Right now, this is estimated to be at around 3 am Monday morning. This is what we are doing in preparation:
1. My husband read somewhere that in order to be truly prepared for a disaster, a family should have at least 1 gallon per person per day for at least 3 days for just drinking purposes, and that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and anyone who is sick may require more than this. For our family of four (that includes a 3 and a half-year old and a 9 month old), my husband went and bought 13 gallons of water. We are also planning to fill up all the containers that we have available in our home. We will be using this water to drink, cook, and wash our hands, dishes, etc. Luckily, there were lots of good sales on water this week!
2. The ONLY thing we plan to do with our water from the city is flush the toilet.
3. We will be doing sponge baths when needed, and if this lasts more than a day or two, we will be going to family’s houses who get water from different locations (a well or another water system) to take real showers. Some of the people in the area are calling this “stinky weekend” or “stinky week” depending on when it actually goes into effect.
4. While this is going on, we won’t be eating out anywhere that is not taking precautions or using water anywhere affected by this.
5. We are doing all of our laundry and washing dishes in the dishwasher now so that we have clothes to wear and dishes if we need them.
6. We have plenty of disposable plates and silverware and will probably be eating on those as much as possible to avoid having to use water to wash too many dishes.
7. We will probably put something on all the faucets to remind ourselves not to use them. Can you imagine how many times a day we go to the faucet to turn the water on without even thinking about it?
8. We will be turning off the ice machine in the freezer.
Yes, this is going to be a pain, but it is so not worth the risk of anyone we care about getting sick. There have been reports of people in other communities who were told the water was safe to drink, but later experienced skin and eye irritations and stomach problems after ingesting and washing with this water. It has also been recommended that pregnant woman not drink the water if it contains any trace of this chemical at all. I am not pregnant (though I am still nursing), but that recommendation lets me know that there is still something to be concerned about with this situation.
It is really unfortunate that anyone has to deal with a situation like this, but one of the things that is the most irritating to me is the lack of information that has been given out about this situation. I just checked one of the local news’ websites and there is nothing to be found about this on the home page. The only reason I have the information I have is because of another woman in my area who has taken it upon herself to find the information from other sources and has contacted the water and sewer companies herself. It is a little frightening what has been omitted from the local news stations.
At this point, the worst case scenario is that we have to take these precautions for several days. The best case scenario is that it will be much less concentrated than what is estimated and we won’t have to worry about these things. Either way, we at least now have the amount of water stored that we should have in place in case of an emergency anyway. At the very least, this situation has prompted us to think about just how prepared we really are for a disaster.
How prepared are you?