(Peg McNichol ~ firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bottled water is selling briskly, according to employees of area stores, though plenty could be found on shelves Tuesday afternoon at the Food Giant and Dollar Store.
Chaffee City Council members got an earful from angry residents Tuesday night.
Chaffee resident Mark Perkins read a statement, citing a series of water-related crises in other cities resulting in mass illnesses and death, telling the board that the city needed to be more mindful of the consequences.
"I thank God we've been spared from such tragedy," he said, referring to a city public works employee, Shannon Hendrix, who was injured and rushed to the hospital when he tried to adjust the chlorine in the city's water system. Hendrix, who is not a certified water plant operator, was hurt after the city's only licensed water plant operator, Eric Hicks, resigned. Scott City has loaned one of its certified operators, John Smith, to Chaffee until a permanent replacement can be found.
Perkins called the board irresponsible. His comments were met with a long round of applause from others attending the meeting.
Mayor Loretta Mohorc said many of the people "just wanted to vent, and I don't blame them. They're concerned. They're worried, and I understood their fear."
But she also said the problem was "blown out of proportion" because early tests which showed no chlorine in the city's water system turned out to be false.
At the Rhodes 101 station, she said, it was discovered Tuesday that a charcoal-based water softener was removing chlorine before the water reached the tap. When the water softener was turned off, the chlorine level stabilized.
She said south-side government housing operates off a series of federally installed water mains and is not the responsibility of the city.
Mohorc said a DNR inspector took three water samples to test for bacteria and a second set of samples will be delivered to the Poplar Bluff lab today. City officials hope to end the boil-water order Thursday.
Misty Cline, director of nursing at the Chaffee Nursing Center, said her staff is using five-gallon jugs of water delivered in bulk.
"We're using bottled water for everything -- making lemonade, brushing teeth," she said. "We're buying ice by the bag and passing out fresh pitchers of water every shift."
She said the shift from tap water "hasn't been much of a problem."
At Chaffee City Hall, employees responded to water-related questions from people who called or asked as they used the drive-through window to pay bills, telling people the order was still in effect.
Mike Wyatt, an environmental specialist for the department, was in the city Tuesday inspecting the water.
Tests through Friday didn't reflect an appropriate amount of chlorine, according to Jack Baker, environmental section chief of the DNR's Poplar Bluff office. He said the water system must show appropriate chlorine levels and further tests must show no bacteria for 48 hours before the order can be lifted.
Not everyone was willing to wait. Laura Estes, owner of the Chaffee Drive In, said the boil-water order hurt her business. When city workers were testing in her area, she invited them to check the drive-in's water. When the chlorine level checked out, Estes asked the Scott County Health Department for permission to resume selling soft drinks. She posted the county's permission letter on the drive-in's window and started selling carbonated drinks Friday.
"While everything was shut down there was nothing else to do, so we cleaned," she said.
Both five-gallon and individual-size water bottles were on hand at Chaffee public schools.
Shirley Childers, a West Davidson Circle resident, said she's sticking to bottled water rather than boiling tap water. She said water from the faucets in her home continues to carry a strong odor.
"I'm a little bit afraid of it yet. Until they say all clear, I'm not going to drink it," she said.
Baker said other small towns have experienced extended boil-water orders from time to time.
He said it's important that people boil water used for drinking and cooking until the order is lifted. Chlorine kills bacteria in the water.
Mohorc said at least a dozen applications for a public works position have been received by the city, with "one or two" among them being licensed water plant operators.
Councilman Tom Cunningham said the water committee will meet at 5 p.m. Thursday to review the resumes.
335-6611, extension 127
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