CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia American Water Company President Jeff McIntyre has no regrets about his company’s handling of the aftermath of an upriver chemical spill.
“When I look at this situation, with the facts we even know today about this material, I stand behind the decision the water company made with the Bureau of Public Health to issue a Do Not Use to the customers,” McIntyre said on MetroNews Talkline on Wednesday.
McIntyre said up until 4 p.m. on Jan. 9 the company was confident they were able to adequately treat the contaminated water. However, McIntyre was asked how he would have handled the matter if it were a deadly chemical.
“Everything has a set of circumstances, but we understood from the MSDS sheet this not to have a high lethality,” he said. “If you had something where you put out any of the water and it could cause acute harm, you could have a different decision.”
McIntyre said the Do Not Use order was the best course of action to keep sanitation and fire protection service in place. He said the alternative would have had far worse ramifications. He said shutting down the plant would have caused an extended outage and a whole different set of problems.
“We conservatively believe it would have been more 30 days to return all customers to water,” explained McIntyre. “Think about that, think about no water.”
McIntyre acknowledged his company has lost the trust of its customers. He also realized winning back their confidence won’t be easy, especially while the licorice smell still hangs in the air.
“There is a fear associated with this event,” he said. “Dealing with that fear is the hardest thing. We can provide all the assurances and all the statements, but as long as that odor is there, we’ll still have that fear. It’s my goal, and that of my team, to keep flushing until all of that material is out of the system.”