Virginia health commissioner orders City of Petersburg to restore running water during COVID-19

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PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver is ordering the City of Petersburg to restore water to residents during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Oliver wrote a letter addressed to City Manager Aretha Ferrell-Benavides on May 10, stating that Petersburg residents are at ‘special risk’ for COVID-19.

“Petersburg is one of the least healthy places in Virginia. Petersburg’s population struggles with
obesity and poverty, which can increase risks of severe illness from the pandemic,” Dr. Oliver wrote.

Running water can improve hygiene and ensure that people wash their hands and clothing often.

According to Dr. Oliver’s letter, the City of Petersburg has been asked more than once to reconnect water service — on April 27th by Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird and again on April 30 by the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative. The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Drink Water (ODW) then reached out to Petersburg city manager and the Department of Public Utilities.

“ODW staff understands that between July 2019 and January 2020, the City shut off water
service to about 730 connections that were at least 90 days delinquent,” Dr. Oliver wrote.

Oliver states that the city has not restored water to about 150 connections.

“I appreciate the City’s efforts to date to restore water service at every residence in the City. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the inextricable public health link between access to water and the ability to lessen the threat of contracting and transmitting COVID-19, I am providing you with the enclosed certification that ceasing to provide water endangers the health of the occupants of the premises and the health of others,” Dr. Oliver said.

8News will continue to monitor Petersburg’s water restoration.

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