BELLAIRE - A mix-up at the Bellaire Water Treatment Plant resulted in a "do not drink" order for village water customers Monday morning.
As a result of the order, many businesses and schools in the village were forced to close for the day on Monday while the water department worked to correct the problem.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency later checked the quality of the water and determined the water to be safe around 12:30 p.m.
According to Water Treatment Supervisor Kirk Baker, the mistake actually happened Sunday around 11 a.m. when a drum of hydrochloric acid was accidentally put into the water system instead of hydrofluoric acid or fluoride. It was discovered Monday morning when workers noticed a strong odor and different pH levels in the water than normal.
Workers then determined that hydrochloric acid was used in place of the fluoride. About 40 gallons of the acid was put into 1 million gallons of water. The acid was purchased from a different company than normally used by the water treatment plant and was in a drum identical to the drum containing fluoride, but with a different label.
"Luckily, with the amount that was fed and the amount of water that was used, we have had no signs of any problems," Baker said. "As a precaution, we've drained the flushed almost the entire system."
Baker did say that he believes that based on the levels from testing at the plant that the water was not harmful to drink.
"At this point, there has been no harm done," he said. "The key to this is the testing of the pH and it's all normal. The acid would have lowered the pH, and we checked throughout the system."
Baker also said that immediately after the mistake was discovered, he contacted the Environmental Protection Agency, hospital emergency rooms, the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, and began flushing the water system.
Fire hydrants were purposely opened throughout the village to get the water out of the system.
"It was an unfortunate accident that won't happen again," he said.
While many businesses, along with Bellaire High School, St. John Central High School and St. John Grade School closed as a precaution, Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire was not affected.
Belmont Community Hospital Administrator Gary Gould said the medical facility receives its water from the Belmont County Water District and not from the village water system.
According to Gregg Warren, public relations and marketing director for Belmont Community Hospital and Wheeling Hospital, 16 people have inquired about symptoms related the water situation. No one has reportedly sought treatment for issues relating to the contaminated water.
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