Col. Greg Grant, Adj. Gen. Jim Hoyer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As water-safety testing continued Sunday, about 300,000 West Virginians suffered through their fourth day without potable water after a chemical leak contaminated the West Virginia American Water Company lines.

Officials tested to determine if it’s safe to lift the do-not-use order that has been in place since Thursday night. WVAWC says the ongoing testing and flushing of 100 storage tanks and 1,700 miles of lines may cause customers to experience no water or low water for a short period of time.

The state has hired an outside firm that is conducting 100 water quality tests. The testing Saturday showed that the levels of Crude MCHM that leaked from a Freedom Industries storage tank into the Elk River near the WVAWC intake valve have continued to drop.

“Now we’re down below one-part-per-million, but we need to consistently be below one-part-per-million for a 24-hour period,” West Virginia National Guard Col. Greg Grant said at Saturday night’s briefing. Another briefing is scheduled for later Sunday.

Company and state officials continued to advise residents not to use the water.

“The interagency that includes West Virginia American Water, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues sampling,” offcials said in a statement Sunday, reiterating the do-not-use order is still in effect. “Bottled and bulk water supplies are still being delivered and available at designated locations.”

Meanwhile, state officials say 1,260 people have called the poison center with questions and concerns about exposure to chemical, which is not considered toxic or hazardous. Some142 patients have been treated and released at 10 hospitals, while six people have been admitted for symptoms that could be related to the spill.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the outside testing lab should quickly turn around 100 tests Sunday now that the method has been developed.

“It is a very complicated issue. We had to basically start from ground zero in setting the protocols on how to do the testing to make sure the water was safe,” Tomblin said. “Now that those are in place, the testing is being done and we are trending in the right way. I think it’s a very positive sign for us.”

Once the all-clear is given, WVAWC will instruct customers on how to begin flushing the water from their homes. That will include turning on spigots and running the hot and cold water for several minutes. The company will offer a 1,000-gallon credit to its residential customers to cover the process.

WVAWC President Jeff McIntyre urged customers Saturday night not to begin the flushing process until word comes from the company.

“It’s wasted effort without the all-clear,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, McIntyre said even when the acceptable level is reached the process of lifting the order could be lengthy.

“Flushing beginning at the center location and moving out to the far ends of the distribution system is expected to take several days but will not be simultaneous based upon the construction of the system,” McIntyre said. “The timeline may vary on geographic location, customer demand and other factors that impact water usage and availability.”

There are more than 100 water storage tanks in the system and more than 1,700 miles of storage pipeline in the nine counties.

“We have employees that have worked this system that are extremely knowledgeable. They are out checking samples and looking at flushing activities at this time, but we are talking days,” he said.

Other information released during the two briefings Saturday included:

–Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato said no decisions have been made about school on Monday. Tomblin said it’s possible only parts of counties would have schools closed because some communities are covered by other water systems.

–DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said the formation of Freedom Industries would be looked at as part of investigation.

–Gov. Tomblin said there could be some bills this legislative session dealing with above ground storage facilities “to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

–McIntyre said “he fully expects” the do-not-use order will be lifted in zones. He wouldn’t speculate on what that would look like.

–Freedom Industries, where the leak occurred, has now said it believes 7,500 gallons of the chemical leaked. The maximum amount was earlier thought to be 5,000 gallons.

–Freedom is now communicating better with the state.

–Gianato said 1.4 million liters of water had been delivered to the impacted counties by FEMA as of Saturday. More was scheduled to be delivered Sunday and Monday.

–Several restaurants in Kanawha County reopened Saturday and Sunday after bringing separate water sources on site and having a plan approved by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

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Comments

  • Pat McComas

    Dennis, I agree w/your comment 100%.

    • jss

      There probably no insurance (or very little). Good luck finding the "owners". The are gone.

  • Pamela Fitch

    Why don't truck stops and motels open up shower rooms for the people to use!!

  • sam

    Just wondering... who was there first??? The water company?? Or the plant??

    • jss

      wvdep . never been there before.

    • Arh

      The freedom site was there first. Avoiding to older generations, it's been there since the 70's. As a chemical plant but was owned by other company prior to freedom. Therefore the water company built it's treatment and water plant down stream from a chemical plant

  • Geofe

    I hope heads roll over this. People like to make fun of lawyers, but this is one time I hope they sue this company to smithereens.

    • Dennis

      Once the suits are filed, the company will declare bankruptcy, the company's insurance will pay to the limits of the policy. Then the lawyers will collect their fees off the top and then the members of the class action suit will receive next to nothing.

      • just sayin

        The only people to profit from this will be the attorneys

      • Pat McComas

        Agree w/that comment 100%.

      • Oh Did Ya?

        Exactly correct. The sad part is the company will likely re-organize under a new entity and continue to operate assuming they can find an insurance company to insure them going forward.

      • Pook

        You notice Kent Carper was one of the first law firms to file

  • Brian

    is the chemical that spilled into the water more dangerous than the flouride and chlorine that are in the water everyday. has anyone looked into the effects chlorine and flouride have on the human body?

  • WV Redneck

    Has anyone heard about any fish deaths? If not, why not if this stuff is so dangerous?

    Also, how long till WVAM petitions the state to increase our water rates in order to recoup costs, losses and legal fees etc? Cause you gotta figure they have already thought of it.

    • Rich

      Metro news reported yesterday there was no evidence of aquatic death.

    • Harpers Ferry

      No fish deaths, but go ahead and drink the water and let us know how that works out for you.

      • WV Redneck

        Wanting to drink it wasn't the point Fairy, curiosity was.

  • Wowbagger

    Maybe turning West Virginia's delivery of drinking water over to a few big entities (mostly WVAW, MUB, and others) and somewhere between ten and a dozen big delivery systems wasn't a really good idea!

    • jss

      set up your own for 100000 customers or just shut up

    • WVUDAD

      They were not "turned over" by choice. The cities and PSDs could no longer afford to be in the water business due to all the federal EPA regulations that have been put in place.

    • Cigarman

      Your suggestion ?

  • DirtyEER

    Now in its 3rd day with several more to come, how many businesses will give employees time off due to this situation? Water amounts are not sufficient for clean bathing and hygiene. A couple days is one thing, but 4, 5, 6 days or more? Is anyone else concerned for health reasons?

    • Packfan

      Everyone I know including myself had to report on Friday. Legislature came in for 7 minutes (to get full per-Diem) and bragged about how awesome that was then went home. As to Who is to blame, add whom ever authorized that tank to sit 1 mile from a major water intake...with apparently no overview in site. Blame goes from the plant to WVAW all the way to the top at the State. Unreal how unprepared these people are...

      • Arh

        Freedom plant was there first. Therefore the WATER Co built AFTER chemical plant was already in operation. Not the other way round. Freedom site was chemical plant from the 70's

        • Joe

          Chemical storage facility, not plant. Get it right.

      • Joe

        Packfan, you are on point.

  • Joe

    If you're a water treatment plant and you don't know what is above you near the river, then you are equally at fault. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is incompetence at it's best and to say that it's just the company's fault is a false statement. There is plenty of blame to go around and justice needs to be served on every level and entity. Metro News, investigate and find us the truth.

    • Cigarman

      Ok Joe should the water company have done?

      • Wowbagger

        How about a second intake above the warehouse district, say Mink Shoals and a pipeline to the treatment plant or a reservoir somewhere. This is a division of a publically traded utility that can raise funds a number of ways, of course the rates might have needed to rise to pay off the debt.

        • Wirerowe

          Makes sense

        • Packfan

          How about having a test available for the chemicals sitting in a storage tank "from the 70's" onsite and ready...

    • Hillboy

      Every public water system is required by the federal government to have a Source Water Protection plan in place that takes into account what potential threats there are to the system's source water. Unfortunately, most water systems do this in a perfunctory manner and once the plan is completed it ends up being a binder sitting on a shelf somewhere. They are rarely updated to reflect changes in the area. It would be interesting to see what is in WVAM's SWPP.

      • Joe

        That is the point I was getting at. Seems to me that this would be common sense. So, to that point Cigarman, they should have practiced common sense.

  • Don

    .....I think they draw it straight from the river.

  • Don

    Doesn't John Amos plant use water that gets turned into vapor? Water boils and turns to steam and turns generators....and all that. Would that be in the air?

    • Wowbagger

      "The solution to pollution is dilution!"

      A whole lot of water enters the Kanawha between the mouth of the Elk and St. Albans including the whole flow of the Kanawha above the mouth of the Elk. 7500 gallons isn't a whole lot of liquid in the overall scheme of things.

      • Geofe

        It is when it only travels 1/2 Mike to the water system.

  • Dale

    What about all the sewage treatment plants above the water intake (up Elk river) recycling the already contamintated water? There's one at Big Chimney and Clendenin to name two.

  • Jim N Charleston

    New warning should issuedgiven this disaster. Dont get between Kent Carper or Danny Jones and a camera. It is more dangerous than getting between Joe Manchin & a camera. Seriously why not County Clerk & magistrates holding pressers and yapping on cnn? You are a county commissioner and a mayor whose office required winning in a 10% voter turnout. You are not part of the SOLUTION!

    I'm Jim N Miami FL

    • Wowbagger

      Jim, I really think Joe. Manchin has taken the publicity hound thing to a whole new level.

  • Dr G

    I have a question or maybe suggestion.
    -
    It seems that we have a zillion water hauling trucks here in the NP. In this time of state emergency, why could we not ask these companies to divert their equipment to Charleston for a few days to haul water from the Kanawha River to the water plant on the Elk to provide water to the plant until the Elk has cleared?
    -
    It would only make sense on all sides to make this happen.

    • The bookman

      The ones I've seen read non potable! That means not for consumption...I don't think that helps us!

  • WV Redneck

    Just curious. If this water treatment plant can't remove this chemical from the water they treat, how can they remove all the others that are in the water already?

    • The bookman

      They commented initially that this compound was not one they were set up to deal with. And given the scramble to ascertain acceptable levels and testing protocols, I would say that they were accurate in their statement. Doesn't seem to be a path to follow in dealing with this compound in municipal water and how to get back to normal. Kind of a test retest scenario.

      • Brother where art thou

        So, you mean the only chemical facility --not just upstream from our drinking water supply but right NEXT DOOR to it--- and they weren't equipped to filter the chemical from that facility out of our water supply?

        • The bookman

          Not only that, but there were no protocols anywhere to handle a discharge of this chemical into a water supply. They developed testing procedures using DuPont chemists in the fly. Obviously a very isolated product, and a first ever reported discharge involving this chemical, as everyone was flat footed, and continue to be in my book. No real answers have been given as to effects, interactions, long term infrastructure implications. So many unanswered questions involved with this event. You can't expect WVAW to prepare to filter any possible contaminant, can you? Are they required to know at any given time what chemicals are stored upstream from them? If so, how far upstream do they need to go? There will be scapegoats, and WVAW might be culpable for not reacting seriously and quickly enough, but I don't think you can expect them to prepare for every possible contaminant.

          • JT

            Yes they should know every chemical that the plant in their back door handles, and what the protocols would be to handle a leak into the water supply. They are absolutely culpable in this mess, and hopefully are also in the class action suits that follow. Absolutely pure laziness not to drive up the road and ask questions.

          • Brother where art thou

            There is validity to what Bookman says but I agree more with you JT. Although WVAW cannot nor should be expected to prepared for every contaminate known but they should at least be prepared for contaminates that are in their immediate backyard that will effect their finished product.

            In reality, Freedom Industries as well as the Water Company look out for their own best interest. In this case, both entities failed miserably. However, the biggest losers in this are the folks serviced by the water company; Who do we have looking out for our best interest? Those we hire at the local, state and Federal levels through an election process, that, hypothetically, is who.

            Danny Jones and Kent Carper need to concern themselves more with this level of Public Health and Safety instead of enforcing where we can smoke and how many guns I buy

          • The bookman

            I agree, brother. WVAW and Freedom will be targets, and I think Freedom bears the lion's share of the blame, but WVAW will not scoot through unscathed. I'm just not aware of a process that allows a Public Utility like WVAW to gain the information you feel they should have. Ultimately Freedom must secure the hazard from entering the river and the DEP must certify the water to the intake. WVAW has the responsibility from that point forward. I'm not even certain there is a filtration process by which this contaminant can be removed from water. The focus has been on dilution to mitigate the effects of the chemical which tells me they may not be able to filter it by extraction, or that dilution was determined to be a better solution.
            Hopefully the lives of the people in the Kanawha Valley can get back to normal early this coming week, and some answers to the myriad questions we all have can be provided. One thing is clear though. It could have been a devastating disaster with massive loss of life. Water supplies should be better protected, and permits for storage and transport of possible contaminants should be re-evaluated as to their potential risk and further mitigation of that risk where necessary.

          • Will

            Include WVAWC in a class action suit if you want and they probably are nearly at blame as Freedom, but that money they have to pay will come from somewhere. My guess is it will come in the form of higher prices. So win $50 in a class action suit today and lose $5 a month in higher bills for eternity.

          • Brother where art thou

            I agree Bookman, the water company hasn't the authority nor a privilege to know or demand what Freedom Inds. does or has there. However, and just as I suspected, particularly after 9/11-- Freedom Inds was required to file with state and local governments what chemicals they had on sight. And according the Sunday Charleston Newspaper article Freedom Inds. did just that.



            Also, and not surprising, Kent Carper pointed his finger at American Water by claiming they knew Freedom was there and it was their own responsibility to know what chemicals they (Freedom) had and have an accident plan that dealt with such an emergency.--
            I happen to partially agree with Carper on that point..

            Carper, and to a lesser extent Danny Jones, are exactly the types that give Government the persona of being inept. Despite all their bluster and self- serving promotion at the end of the day neither could run a private enterprise efficiently enough to keep their jobs.

            Kent Carper, since he enjoys being the face of County Government, needs to be criminally accountable for this.

            As the Sunday Gazette ask: "Why wasn't there a plan"?-- as the law clearly say there would be----