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Philip Maramba: Lessons from the last two weeks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When bad things happen, usually the only things you can take away are lessons - as in "it was a learning experience."

Having just completed Week Two of the Great West Virginia Water Crisis of 2014, I can say I've learned a thing or two.

Lesson 1: 4-methylcyclohexane methyl. The primary offender to Charleston's water supply. I was a biology major in college. I vaguely remembered what I was looking at when I saw its structural formula. I did remember how to pronounce it.

Lesson 2: Know your valves. As a homeowner for 12 years or so, I've lived blissfully ignorant of the maze of plumbing suspended above my basement. I know my limits. If at first you don't succeed, subcontract out. I've had my plumber's number in the memory of three cell phones, including my current one.

That said, I married into plumbing, so to speak,. My wife's dad is a retired union pipefitter and master plumber. He's well aware of my limitations as a do-it-yourselfer, so he's always been very patient answering my questions when I try to tackle a project.

This one involved draining my water heater. It seemed fairly straightforward - close water intake, shut off heater, let cool, then drain.

Except the water intake was stuck open and my efforts to close it, short of breaking the fixture, failed. So I had to test every one that could have possibly fed into that section of pipe. Ultimately, I wound up shutting off the main valve into the house, but not before figuring what the others in the basement controlled.

Lesson 3: Mind your pints and quarts. Previous to the Taste of Freedom Challenge, measuring tap water was pretty much limited to culinary pursuits - recipes, cake mixes and the like - as well as the occasional container of plant feed or garden herbicide. Otherwise, we just stuck our toothbrushes under the faucet or cranked up the shower and paid our bill at the end of the month.

While the all-clear has been given for the consumption of city water - unless you are pregnant or a small child, of course - my household is neither drinking nor washing with it as long as it has that tell-tale licorice odor to it.

So we've had to be fairly frugal with the stores of H2O we've either bought bottled or imported in 5-gallon dispensers from our hometowns of Parkersburg or Beckley.

Two things we've learned from this measured use: 1) It takes about 4 gallons to do a sink full of dishes (rinsing uses the lion's share); and 2) Three cups boiled plus one cup cold mixed together in a basin are enough for a good, hot face wash and shave or one sponge bath.

(Luckily, my daughter and I don't have a lot of hair to wash.)

Lesson 4: I'm a big sissy. I've recently had reason to maybe reconsider my aversion to the funny-smelling stuff coming out of our faucets.

I learned the other day that my buddy Pete, who was raised in the Kanawha Valley, hasn't stopped drinking or bathing in city water since the Do Not Drink advisory was issued back on Jan. 9.

His reasoning, according to his mother-in-law, was that he'd been swimming the mighty Kanawha River since before there was an Environmental Protection Agency. If he'd managed to survive a pre-regulatory age tributary flowing through Chemical Valley, a little licorice water wasn't going to hurt him.

I can appreciate his rationale and city boy bravado. I might even think he's probably right. But I'm soft and averse to risk. And I'm not from here. And my wife would kill me if she caught me drinking  it.

Lesson 5: To err is human. Just about every day, I focus in The Lord's Prayer on forgiving those in our debt. I think about those to whom I have given offense and those who have given offense to me, and how willing I am to forgive them if I myself am to be forgiven.

To be truthful, I'm still hoping to learn how to forgive the people responsible for the way my family and I are living now.

Maramba is Daily Mail managing editor. His email address is http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Opinion/philmaramba/contact/Cuvyvc+qnvylznvyji+pbz+return=/Opinion/philmaramba/201401240086?page=2&;build=cache.


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