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Making Bottled Water Available

Distributions of bottled water usually occur in the wake of natural disasters such as hurricanes, inland flooding or earthquakes. But some Paden City residents want it because of a manmade situation — municipal water supplies contaminated with tetrachloroethylene, often referred to as PCE.

A variety of health problems can be caused by the chemical. In Paden City, groundwater contamination by PCE has been linked to a dry-cleaning shop that closed years ago.

Concern over PCE in the municipal water system goes back to about a year ago, when city officials informed the public concentrations of the chemical exceeded safety limits specified by the Environmental Protection Agency. Earlier this year, Paden City residents were informed of another spike in PCE concentration — of 13.6 parts per billion. The EPA’s safety standard is for 5 ppb.

City officials have been far from inactive in tackling the concern. They have obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to install “stripper” equipment to remove the PCE from water piped out to residents.

Until that can be done, some Paden City residents worry about drinking water from the municipal system. The city cannot afford to buy and distribute bottled water.

During a City Council meeting last week, Mayor Clyde Hochstrasser said a state declaration of emergency in Paden City is being sought. That would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to distribute bottled water.

Gov. Jim Justice should do whatever he can to get such a declaration issued. Then, FEMA should proceed immediately to get bottled water to Paden City residents who want it.

It may be that consumption of water from the municipal system will cause no immediate ill effects. Still, many Paden City residents are worried — and not entirely without cause. Both state and federal governments should act immediately to provide the bottled water.

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