Courtney Baumwell thought she had a lot on her hands already, with 2 1/2-month-old triplets and a recent move to Charleston, W.Va. Then a chemical spill wiped out her water.
Baumwell, 30, relocated to her hometown three weeks ago to be closer to her family. She is one of the more than 300,000 people who have not been able to use tap water since Thursday, when thousands of pounds of chemicals were reported to have leaked into the water supply.
The triplets, all boys, were born two months prematurely. "We've had to change everything we do -- how we make their formula, how we wash their bottles, how we give them a bath," Baumwell told The Huffington Post. "They're preemies, so they're very susceptible to illness, colds, things like that. So we have to find ways to keep everybody clean, sanitized."
The family goes through 30 diapers a day, and every changing requires more hand-washing. Every time one of them spits up, a towel at least has to be rinsed. They've set up an elaborate assembly line for cleaning bottles, with multiple buckets of water spread down the kitchen counter.
The family already has gone through 15 gallons of bottled water and a case of smaller bottles. When Baumwell's husband went to the Walgreens Thursday night, it was running low on bottled water. Another patron let her husband cut the line to get water, after noticing he was carrying infant formula.
Baumwell said she moved to Charleston so her family could help with the triplets. While the water situation is stressful, "we're lucky they're here," she said. "If we had moved here and not had family, I don't know … it would have been a lot of trouble." She said the family has been traveling to her older sister's home 25 miles away to shower. Her sister has opened her house to family, friends and coworkers who need a place to shower and fill water bottles.
State officials have said the chemical leak was discovered Thursday morning, prompting the ban on using tap water for drinking, bathing and other uses. Baumwell said her family didn't get notice until 6 p.m. that evening. "For all we know, we gave our babies formula all day long, and the chemicals were already in our water," she said.
"I'm pretty surprised and frustrated this happened without any sort of safety gap in place. There weren't any inspections done to prevent this from happening, and not a faster response," said Baumwell. "It sounds like to us that the response from the chemical storage company and the water company wasn't very fast, and then getting the information to the people in the city wasn't very fast."
The advisory on drinking or showering with the tap water was lifted in some parts of the state on Monday afternoon, but not in Baumwell's part of Charleston. "They keep saying that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, it's coming soon, but there's no actual timeline," said Baumwell. "Days is the best I've heard."