Nightly News   |  February 08, 2014

Water Woes Dampen W. Va. Residents' Faith

Residents question whether their licorice-smelling water is safe to drink, despite officials’ assurances.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> disaster in west virginia where a lot of people still don't know who to believe about the safety of the water. now almost a month after that chemical spill . even as officials insist there is no danger schools were temporarily closed this week and so many people are getting understandably increasingly anxious for some concrete answers. we get an update on this story tonight from nbc's kristen welker.

>> reporter: angry residents rallied outside west virginia water company today demanding clean water and payment for their bills.

>> i don't trust what they say, that the water is safe.

>> reporter: this after the chemical, mchm, leaked from a water supply owned by freedom indust industries in january.

>> people are afraid, concerned, anxious.

>> reporter: today, west virginia american water underscored that it is not responsible for the leak and said it is evaluating the availability of federal and state assistance to address customer concerns, freedom industries has not responded to nbc's repeated requests for comment.

>> there is a new level of normal for those families in west virginia right now.

>> reporter: melissa sutton said even though the state insists the water is safe she and her family are not convinced and continue to drink and cook with bottled water .

>> it just seems like every three or four days another story comes out. and that is when you sort of just don't know where you stand sometimes with it. sometimes you feel really good about the water and good about moving on. and then you know three days later you may sort of question yourself again.

>> reporter: her concerns heightened this past week after five charleston area schools , including her children's, temporarily closed because the water smelled like licorice, a smell associated with mchm.

>> i am afraid to bathe my kids at home because of the water.

>> you have the conversation that not only changes schools but maybe changes zip codes .

>> reporter: state officials say that only one test at a school found evidence of a chemical and on retesting the sample was clean. earlier officials tried to calm fear fears.

>> you can drink it, bathe in it, and use it how you like.

>> reporter: consumer advocate erin brokovich says they need to do more. the community is determined to make their water safe once again.