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West Virginians Say Not Having Tap Water For 5 Days Is 'Unsettling'

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WEST VIRGINIA WATER
Work continues around storage tanks at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, W.Va., on Jan. 13, 2014. The lifting of the ban on tap water for parts of West Virginia on Monday ended the crisis for a fraction of the 300,000 people who were told not to drink, wash or cook with water after a chemical spill tainted the water supply. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Five days after a chemical spill prompted a ban on using tap water in West Virginia, the water has been declared safe in some areas. For others, however, the waiting isn't over.

"Not having water is unsettling, but after 5 days without it is overwhelmingly so," Lori Scott, who lives in West Virginia's Kanawha County, told HuffPost via email on Tuesday afternoon. "There are many who are helping people to get water everywhere, but it is enough for a little cooking, washing a few dishes and some for personal hygiene. We have been using many baby wipes and lots of hand sanitizer. I imagine most people feel as I do and just want to take a shower and wash a load of clothes."

Scott said she wasn't sure when her water would be restored, but she doubted relief would come by Wednesday.

Those who have their water back describe past days filled with problems ranging from minor irritations to more pressing worries.

Vivian Taylor, who lives in a Charleston neighborhood called Kanawha City, felt her chronic migraines flare up from the smell even before she was told not to use water from the faucets. She spent the weekend making do with minimal cooking and lots of bottled water from one of her brothers.

"In one way this situation reminds me of spending summers with my paternal grandparents when I was a child in the 1960s," she said. "My grandparents lived in rural West Virginia and did not having running water, so we were forced to boil water for cooking, cleaning, bathing, laundry, etc. They had huge barrels outdoors to collect rain water just for that purpose. The only differences are that I'm using the regular tub in a bathroom as opposed to a metal tub in the kitchen, and I'm using bottled water rather than rain water."

Taylor said her 80-year-old father, who undergoes dialysis three times a week in Charleston, had his treatment delayed for nearly six hours on Friday until a truck could arrive with water. The water ban was lifted Monday for her and her parents' neighborhoods, she said, but much of her family remains without, and several of her younger relatives' schools are still closed.

"The water crisis here has meant different things to different people. My 18-year-old son said, 'It’s not a crisis, it’s an inconvenience.' And for most, it was," said Ellen Vance, a Charleston resident who recounted heating water on the stove and showing up to work "for probably the first time in my life" without washing her hair.

"Sunday brought some surprises. Due to the lack of water to clean chalices, Holy Communion at our parish was limited to the host. A lot of people hesitated to even bless themselves with holy water upon entering and exiting the church," she said. "We went to my brother-in-law’s home in an unaffected area that afternoon to shower and wash clothes. I also drank some water, because I could, and I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a glass of ice water so much."

But for others -- like the restaurant and other service workers who lost days of pay -- the effects have been far more pronounced.

"It was [an] inconvenience for most people," Vance said. "For many, it’s been a catastrophe."

HuffPost Readers: If you're a West Virginian whose water supply has been or is still affected, we want to hear from you. Email us here with your stories, photographs or anything else you want to share. Please include your name, and a phone number if you're willing to speak with a reporter.

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