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One month after spill, W. Virginians still wary of drinking water

Al Jones, of the West Virginia Department of General Services, tested water on the first floor of the state Capitol.
Al Jones, of the West Virginia Department of General Services, tested water on the first floor of the state Capitol.Steve Helber/Associated Press

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. — For weeks, state officials have said the running water in nine West Virginia counties is suitable for all daily needs. But many of the 300,000 residents whose water was contaminated Jan. 9, are not convinced.

Officials waited four to 10 days, depending on the neighborhood, before allowing people to use their water. In the days right after Freedom Industries leaked chemicals into the Elk River in Charleston, officials said the water should be used only for flushing toilets and fighting fires.

Residents have struggled to track, let alone trust, mixed messages and muddied information from government officials and Freedom Industries, the company involved. Despite public pressure, officials have been reluctant to call the water ‘‘safe’’ and have started arguing that the term is subjective.

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