West Virginia Water Crisis: Exclusive *Crucial* Information about Flushing

Dr. Andrew Whelton, an environmental engineer at the University of South Alabama explains the negative effects of NOT flushing your water on your plumbing and the water quality. He says everyone must flush their water while taking the precaution of opening windows and doors for ventilation. You must also turn off your hot water heater.

People are understandably afraid to follow the instructions to flush, and Dr. Whelton explains why that fear was caused through several instances of misinformation. But he makes it very clear why it is necessary that EVERYONE follow these instructions. Otherwise, contaminated water from any unflushed lines will continue to circulate through everyone’s lines, possibly causing long-term or even permanent damage or contamination.

*The responsibility of ensuring that everyone flushes their lines does fall on the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Dr. Whelton would like to mention and thank his research team from the University of South Alabama: Kevin White, Keven Kelley, Matt Connell, Jeff Gill, Lakia McMillan, Maryam Salehi.

Dr. Whelton is an independent university researcher from the University of South Alabama. He has a PhD in Civil Engineering and studies the effects of contamination on plastic pipes and publishes his research in renowned peer-reviewed journals. You can see his qualifications here: http://www.southalabama.edu/engineering/civil/facultywhelton.html.

Dr. Whelton has another ongoing research project endorsed by the National Science Foundation. I met with the Program Director of Environmental Engineering from the NSF, who traveled here just to see Dr. Whelton’s investigation. Dr. Whelton and his team are taking time away from work to be investigate the effects of this contamination on the pipes. He is also not being paid to be here and had to put up his own money to drive nearly 900 miles, stay in a hotel for nearly a week, and supply the materials to do the testing. Dr. Whelton and his team are here because they care.

Watch the preview of my documentary on the West Virginia Water Crisis to experience a personal story about the history of pollution in the West Virginia’s Chemical Valley.



  1. What about those homes owned by people who spend the winters in the south? If they have no plans to return until spring how will their contaminated lines affect everyone else’s

    1. Mitzi,

      I suppose the homeowners would be responsible for flushing. I also know the Department of Health is responsible for lines inside the home. Like Dr. Whelton said, any contaminated water left in the pipes of one house can travel to other houses when water is being used there.

      Thanks for your question. It’s a huge concern.


      1. Hi Mitzi,

        Your question about individuals on vacation is valid and I do not believe it has been addressed by anyone to date. The key would be to find out when the water entered the house, and for that I would contact the Department of Health. They should tell you.

        Homeowners are responsible for removing the water from their house. The Department of Health is responsible for making certain the plumbing materials/design in the house are up to standard and do not pose health risks to the residents.

        To address the house-to-house issue, we visited a cul-desac that did not have a nearby fire hydrant. Those are situations that could pose problems where the water travels down a street and is then unable to “get out” of the buried pipes unless the water is used by the homeowners on that street. For that reason, flushing all of the houses on that street is important. If only a few homeowners flush, the contaminated water will remain in that buried pipe and could be withdrawn into already flushed building.

        The best approach is to make certain you flush your pipes.


        Andrew Whelton
        Environmental Engineering Professor

  2. Yes, there’s a bit of misleading info out there. To be honest, I’m not even convinced that the water supply is even safe today, fully flushed system or not. Thankfully, I live in Virginia. My rural water supply comes from a well, and I’m on a mountain. When you consider that over 300,000 rural folks can’t have wells and have to have water piped in due to crap groundwater (poisoned by corporations), and then that piped in water is poisoned by the same corporations, it all makes you wonder if the water will ever be truly safe. I feel for the people of West Virginia right now.

      1. Yes. Chemicals are more likely to evaporate from hot water into the air than cold water. Less chemicals will evaporate if you shutoff your hotwater heater. Chemical in the cold water are more likely to stay in the water that is sent down the drain. So, you’d potentially avoid contact with them.

  3. I am a Boone County, WV Resident caught in the middle of the chemical debachle
    Would like to know what the Oily residue is that is present in the water system AFTER Flushing?? I hve yet to hear any comments on this from anywhere

    1. I am sorry you have this residue. It could be caused by a number of different reasons that may or may not be related to this incident. Consider flushing your system again. Pictures are also helpful in documenting what you see.

  4. I’d love to know the results at public schools that were affected. The water company tested individual hospitals but not individual schools. I’m sure parents could be reassured if testing was done at individual schools instead of random hydrants along pipe lines.

  5. We were out of town when the spill happened and did not come home until 3 days later. When we arrived home, my husband shut off the water at the water meter so that none on the bad water could enter our lines. We have NOT used any of the water until this evening. We were told that the only line that we need to flush out is the outside faucet. Is this correct or do we need to flush out all of them?

      1. I can’t necessarily answer this question. I am wondering what organization told you that you should only flush the outside faucet? I am not aware that the exact date when the leak started to occur (and subsequent drinking water contamination) has been determined.

    1. Thank you for the comment.

      Please look above at my post January 23.

      Contaminated water likely remained in buried pipe near dead-ends. If people do not flush on that street, houses that have flushed could end up withdrawing the contaminated water into their house. Homeowners need to flush out the contaminated water. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Hello, fist things first. Thank you for coming to West Virginia. I would like to know your thoughts on my situation.

    I helped a neighbor flush his home as soon as the flush order was given. I found the opposite in my interactions with people. The people I spoke with seemed more hopeful that the flush would bring everything back to normal. I on the other hand think until all tanks and soil are removed from spill site it is not “normal”.

    Upon flushing a home that had just been given the notice to flush I noticed the persistent sweet smell of the chemical. I took the opportunity to flush the hot water tanks in the home at this time as well. Ran the water for some time in all sinks and outside spigot. The whole time smelling the tainted water.

    I waited a couple of days and flushed my home the same as the previous home. I did however notice along with the buildup in the hot water tank a blueish tinted substance. This came out of both hot water tanks. It is now 1/21/2014 and when I turn my water on I still smell the chemical in my water.

    I am not using the water for anything but flushing toilets.

    Since our government SUCKS SO BAD I have never even been able to find a water tanker for bulk fresh water in the City of Charleston. This despite calling city, county and Nation Guard. Our government is the number one cause of this problem. They are the ONLY ones with the authority to have entered this facility and demand tank inspections and inquire about chemicals stored at the site. And to state the obvious…chemicals stored a mile or two upstream from water source??

    Do you know what other chemicals are mixed in with the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol? I have seen reports that 15 to 20 percent of the mixture are other types of chemicals.

    Lastly the 1 part per million. Do you believe that adding one drop of the chemical concoction to 13 gallons of water (I think this is roughly 1 to 1M) would really produce water that smelled so strongly of the chemicals? I just can not believe it would.

    Thanks Again!

    1. Crude MCHM is a mixture of these 7 ingredients:
      4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, 4-(methoxymethyl)cyclohexanemethanol, water, methyl 4-methylcyclohexanecarboxylate, dimethyl 1,4-cyclohexanedicarboxylate, methanol and 1,4-cyclohexanedimethanol.
      The MCHM that contaminated the Elk also included PPH which consists of polyglycol ethers.

  7. I do live in Charleston and I am upset about the whole situation. I want to ask 1 question. The water company left the intakes open and the whole system was contaminated. The many large holding tanks that give pressure to the system were contaminated. The service was never shut down for these tanks to be flushed. My question is how do you decontaminate a system without truly flushing it. Seems to me if you continue to add water to your contaminated mix you are diluting it only. The churning effect of this contaminated water could churn for a long time in those tanks. this is evident by the low readings at schools some day then higher readings the next day. How can our home plumbing be flushed without the whole system being flushed first. I have most days no smell from my water but some days it is obnoxious.

  8. The water won’t be safe for a long time unless proper measures are taken and increased regulations are reached. Yes its awful and as many know flushing for 45 minutes straight still runs dark and stinky. There is another meeting in Charleston called the Water Contamination Business Summit that I encourage all of you to announce to friends, family and businesses who are at ground zero and being affected to speak out. http://www.belllaw.com/blog/water-contamination-business-summit.html There are also good tips and updates of the chemical spill water contamination and water bottle using restaurants to make sure everyone is using.
    Lets hope better solutions are reached quickly!

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