GARY, W.Va (WVVA)- Nearly a week has passed since residents in the city of Gary have had water.
“This is a health emergency. We need to make sure we’re out supporting citizens of Gary,” Candidate for Governor, Ben Salango said.
Locals are pouring in at Gary City Hall to collect gallons of water just to survive. The city’s central pump from the Grapevine Water Pumping Station, and the backup pump both failed to operate.
“I’ve been bringing water. A dozen of cases yesterday, and if we need more today, I will go back out. I will be back down this week,” Candidate for Attorney General, Sam B. Petsonk said.
“People can’t do without water. This has been going on for to long. We need our state government to step up and make sure that we get someone down here to help,” Salango said.
The city of Gary has 563 households. More than half of its citizens are over the age of 50. With the lack of water, some fear that COVID-19 cases will increase as the issue becomes a public health crises.
“I am afraid for everyone. For this particular area of West Virginia, COVID-19 is contracted as a result of community spread. That’s the really frighten part. Now we have a issue of not being able to practice safe hygiene. We all know that the CDC says we must wash frequently and we don’t have water to do that,” Former Resident, Dassa Giles said.
“Water is absolutely necessary for life. We’ve got a real problem here and not just in Gary, but all over southern West Virginia. McDowell County: Keystone, Northfork areas all have water issues,” WV Delegate 26 District, Ed Evans said.
This isn’t the first time that Gary or some parts of West Virginia has seen a water crisis, but it is a first in the middle of a pandemic. Due to the city’s outdated water infrastructure, Gary needs at least five pumps. That’s more than $160,000. That doesn’t include installation or operation cost.
“The pumps were old, the systems were old. A lot of this infrastructure was put in by U.S. Steel. It’s a long term challenge,” Petsonk said.
Thanks to the McDowell County Commission and through the Economic Development Association, one pump is expected to arrive through the Buchanan Pump Service out of Scarbro, West Virginia.
“Everyone needs to be patient. Soon the help is going to come. Hopefully we’ll have something done within the next few days,” Mayor of Gary, Larry D. Hairston said.
As for now the Mayor, along with multiple officials are reaching out to Governor Justice for help with the other pumps and operational cost.