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Schools ‘at a standstill’ amid W.Va. leak cleanup

By Mackenzie Mays

Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — School administrators continued to wait Tuesday, as a return date for students in counties affected by last week’s chemical spill rested in the hands of water company and health officials.

Kanawha, Putnam, Lincoln and Boone counties and some schools in Fayette County are closed Wednesday for a fourth day after Thursday’s do-not-use water advisory.

As of Tuesday evening, only 19 of the 69 schools in Kanawha County — the state’s largest school district — had been inspected by a sanitarian and cleared to open, according to Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Sanitarians from the National Guard and other organizations have loaned their services to help get schools inspected faster, Gupta said.

The sanitarians are ensuring that faucets in schools have been properly flushed and that cafeterias and equipment are cleaned of any residue that might be left from the coal-cleaning chemical. The National Guard also distributed clean water to all schools on Tuesday, officials said.

But the Health Department cannot give schools the green light until West Virginia American Water Co. lifts the “do not use” water ban in their area and approves them to begin flushing out their systems.

An online map from West Virginia American Water mistakenly lifted George Washington High School’s water ban Tuesday at noon, only to reissue it shortly afterward. The area’s ban was officially lifted around 4 p.m.

“We’re at a standstill right now. There’s a lot of unknown,” GW Principal George Aulenbacher said. “We’re just trying to follow the lead provided by our county and state officials. It’s hard to come up with a plan when you have no timeline…

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