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Water crisis hits close to home

By Staff | Jan 31, 2014

The water crisis in Charleston, while many miles from the Eastern Panhandle, has possibly caused harm to local Delegate Tiffany Lawrence.

Lawrence, according to the Charleston Gazette, told lawmakers this week that she was hospitalized and could have lost her eyesight after developing a severe eye infection. The infection came following Lawrence showering at a Charleston hotel that was allegedly “flushed” water that should have been safe. The initial contact with the water came on Jan. 14.

Lawrence is quoted as telling the lawmakers, “I tell this story today, ladies and gentlemen, because I’m just one of the thousands of individuals who have undergone emergency care in response to the chemical spill.”

Lawrence explained in detail her health situation saying that at first she attributed irritation in her eye to “seasonal allergies.” A bump then developed and later her eye was swollen shut.

She received antibiotics at Saint Francis Hospital’s emergency room. An incision was made in her eye to relieve pressure, she said. After the condition failed to improve, Lawrence was admitted to Saint Francis on Jan. 19.

After further tests which included a CT scan and an MRI, Lawrence was transferred to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown where she received additional tests.

She received 15 rounds of antibiotics over the time she was seeking medical assistance and was hospitalized. She reportedly indicated that she could have lost her eyesight had the infection not been controlled. She was released from the hospital Jan.23 and returned to Charleston to her legislative duties where she reported on her experiences.

While she said that she could not definitively say that the infection was a result of the water in Charleston, she did stress that more than 500 people have been evaluated for symptoms associated with the chemical leak.

On Wednesday, a Marshall University scientist reported finding formaldehyde in water samples from the Charleston area.

Scott Simonton, a member of the Environmental Quality Board, which oversees water permits for the state Department of Environmental Protection, stated that the findings are very scary because formaldehyde is a carcinogen.

Legislators in Charleston continue to deal with the repercussions of the chemical spill.