After receiving reports the water at Pocahontas County High School smelled and tasted like paint, the board of education office went into action to investigate the cause and find a resolution to the problem.
Knowing the board recently hired Southern Corrosion, Inc., of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, to paint the interior and exterior of the high school water tank, interim superintendent Terrence Beam and director of safety Ron Hall contacted the company to do a water test.
“[Southern Corrosion] came in and took a sample,” Hall said. “We’ve shut down all the drinking of the water. We’re still using it for commodes and things like that, but we stopped all the drinking and brought in bottled water.”
While the water seems to be contaminated, it is not cloudy and there are no paint chips floating in it.
“There was just a little bit of a hint of a smell to it, and we didn’t feel comfortable with it,” Beam said. “There shouldn’t be anything wrong with the water, but we want to make sure it’s safe. We caught it pretty quick.”
“I’ve got a bottle of it on my desk,” Hall added. “There’s no paint chips in it. It smells like paint. It’s strong enough, but it’s not like it burns your eyes when you smell it.”
Southern Corrosion, Inc. was contracted in June to sand blast and paint the 100,000 gallon tank. The interior is painted in order to keep rust and other contaminates out of the water stored there. Beam said he thinks the maintenance is done every four to five years.
On Monday afternoon, Hall said the company will have the results of the test by the middle of the week.
“I’m thinking it probably needs flushed a couple times and just refilled, and it will be fine, but I’m going to wait and make sure those guys tell us that,” Hall said. “My worst case scenario would be they would have to come back in, sandblast it and repaint it if there’s something wrong with the paint. I can’t just drain it. I have to have water for these kids. That’s going to be a challenge for us.”
In the meantime, the board is supplying students and staff with bottled water until the water is determined to be safe for drinking. The water fountains are covered with plastic bags to ensure students do not drink the water.
“We’ve been giving every child two bottles of water every day,” Beam said. “We’re going to bill the company for it. Whether they pay or not is a different story.”
An update on this story will be posted to The Pocahontas Times website when more information becomes available.