All Tangier Island residents finally have a steady flow of water that’s safe to drink— more than three weeks after a water line serving the island’s west ridge broke.
On Wednesday, February 13, the Town of Tangier posted a notice on its Facebook page, relaying that Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water lifted a “boil water” order, and found the island’s water safe to drink.
Some residents had been dealing with little or no running water since January 21, when a recently-installed water line broke. Contractors determined a temporary fix wasn’t possible, and Tangier had to wait on a new pipe to be ordered and brought to the island, as well as transporting the crew by boat.
During that time, Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge, who lives in the affected area, told Bay Bulletin that Tangier residents got creative, running a fire hose long-distance to provide water, and some folks using creek water to flush toilets.
Neighbors stepped up to help neighbors, and communities on the mainland responded in a big way to help, too. Water donations came in by the pallet from businesses and organizations, all delivered by boat, and even young students took action. Chincoteague Elementary School collected 67 cases and 30 gallon jugs of water for the “WATER FOR TANGIER” water drive. Members of the Onancock Elks Lodge helped transport the water, and Tangier volunteers were at the dock to unload it.
Some donations came in frigid temperatures, sleet or snow. Wayde Fowler shared photos on Facebook of the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office unloading cases of water from a boat onto snow-covered docks.
The town of Tangier came up with rations for the generous donations. For example, on Wednesday, February 6, families could pick up one case of water per person in their household. A family of three got three cases of water.
The final steps of the pipe replacement— connecting the new water line— required the entire island’s water to be shut down for a couple of hours on February 8, but it took another five days before state health officials deemed the water safe to drink.
-Meg Walburn Viviano