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Here is how WV residents can flush their water lines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia American Water Co. today released detailed procedures for residents to use when flushing their household water system.

The company stressed that the procedure is not to be followed until residents are certain the "Do Not Use" order has been lifted for their address.

The entire protocol is posted on the water company's website at - How to flush.pdf

The procedure calls for first flushing all hot-water taps simultaneously for 15 minutes, then turning the hot-water taps off.

According to West Virginia American Water, "After you have flushed each hot water faucet for 15 minutes, your hot water heater will be safe for use."

However, Jerry Hilbert, owner of Jerry Hilbert Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning in Charleston, said he would prefer to flush hot-water taps for 45 minutes, "at least on the hot-water tank side because you may have some sediment on the bottom. You want to stir that up and get it out."

Hilbert stressed that this is only his opinion, based on his 42 years of experience.

He went on to suggest turning the gas down to the pilot light on natural gas-fired water tanks or turning the electricity off on electric tanks "so you're not wasting gas or electricity when you're dumping that water out. You just have to turn the gas back up or turn the breaker back on" when finished.

The second step in West Virginia American's procedure is to flush all cold-water taps simultaneously for 5 minutes, then turning them off.

Hilbert said that in his opinion, instead of flushing cold-water taps for 5 minutes, "30 minutes might be fine."

The third step in West Virginia American's procedure is to flush all remaining faucets, appliances and fixtures such as hose bibs, for at least 5 minutes.

Some equipment requires additional attention. The water company said after the household water system is flushed, water filters need to be replaced.

Filters may be found in several locations, such as on the water line that serves a refrigerator or an ice maker. Ice makers should be emptied and the filter replaced after flushing.

Dishes and clothes that were washed during the "Do Not Use" order should be re-washed, the water company said. After the hot water pipes and water heater have been flushed, the dishwasher and washing machine should be run empty one time.

Homes may be equipped with other devices, such was water softeners or humidifiers, that also need special attention.

Hilbert said he has been called many times over the years to flush residential water systems following water line breaks.

"It's usually an isolated incident or two or three houses but never a whole system," he said. He is usually called to get mud, not a chemical, out of a house's water.

Hilbert's company charges $75 an hour, plus tax and any parts that may be needed, to flush a residential water system. Hilbert said it usually doesn't take more than an hour.

Hilbert already had a waiting list on Monday afternoon. Some people want me to change their (hot water) tank and they have a perfectly good tank" but don't trust that all of the chemical can be removed, he said.

Hilbert said West Virginia American's plan to lift the "Do Not Use" order by zones makes a lot of sense.

Homeowners probably won't experience any problems with rubber washers that have dried up since West Virginia American Water issued the "Do Not Use" order on Thursday, he said.

Hilbert said he has been wondering if a test strip is available that customers could use to check their water after flushing "but I don't know if such a thing even exists for the chemical" that entered West Virginia American's system. 

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