Water complaints lead worker to find body in tank

Aug. 2, 1989
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PRINCETON, W.Va. -- Complaints of foul tasting and smelling water led a worker at American Water Co. to the discovery Wednesday of a decomposed body inside a 100,000-gallon storage tank outside Princeton.

State police divers were sent to the tank to retrieve the body, while water employees went door-to-door to tell about 50 customers in the immediate vicinity to boil water for at least two days.

Steve Edgemon, the utility manager, said a company worker found the body in the elevated tank after a 'taste and odor complaint' was filed with the firm the previous day.

'We immediately isolated the tank, and then, when we invesigated today one of our employees climbed the tank and located the body,' Edgemon said.

'Thisis definitely one I've never run into before and hope I never run into again,' he said.

Edgemon said the employee located some clothing, shoes, pants and a watch, 'neatly stacked on top of the tank, right by the access hatch.'

'The police said it could be only two avenues: either the person was taking a swim, or it was a suicide,' Edgemon said.

Authorities have not determined the cause of death or the sex of the body.

Edgemon said the utility sampled the water and found 'a good chlorine residual,' but no evidence of coliform bacteria.

Edgemon said the plant would launch a flushing system and continue to sample the water as precautionary measures.

The state Division of Health issued a boil water order Wednesday for the utility's customers, said spokeswoman Libby Broughten.

The tank stands 130 feet and is reached by ladder.

'They would have climb around or do something acrobatic to get to the bottom of the ladder,' Edgemon said.

'We take precautions to keep kids off, because they normally like to climb these things,' he said. 'We have a fence area, and we cut the ladder off 20 feet from ground so you can't just walk up and climb.'

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