CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There is still some MCHM coming out of the West Virginia American Water plant on the Elk River in Charleston where the water emergency began for residents in parts of nine counties back on Jan. 9.
Company spokesperson Laura Jordan told MetroNews Tuesday the MCHM has not increased but the testing has become more refined and even the smallest trace amount can be detected.
“These new test results indicate that laboratory methodology and equipment can now test to much lower and lower levels,” Jordan said.
WV TAP, chosen by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to conduct the independent testing, collected a number of water samples last Wednesday, March 18, between the Freedom Industries MCHM spill site and the water plant. The team also tested water at the plant’s intake and tap water from a home near the plant.
The test results received last Friday showed MCHM was not present in either the river or plant intake at a level of 0.5 parts-per-billion or greater. But MCHM was higher at the customer’s home, less than 1.0 parts-per-million but greater than 0.5 parts-per-billion. All of the new testing levels fell below what the state Bureau of Public Health and federal Centers for Disease Control considered acceptable levels of MCHM.
WV TAP gave the information to West Virginia American Water and recommended the company do sampling “before, within, and following” their water treatment plant.
WVAWC released the test results Tuesday afternoon.
“MCHM can be detected at a fraction of a part-per-billion in some of the water samples taken after the filtration process in the plant,” Jordan said. “All of these results are so low that they are actually considered estimates by the laboratory because they are too low to be quantified.”
West Virginia American told residents back in January that it would change the carbon filters at the Elk River plant as soon as the weather warmed. Jordan said the process will begin in a few days.
“Our goal is to begin that process next week and that’s about an eight-week long process. We can change about two filters each week and there are 16 of those altogether,” Jordan said.
West Virginia American Water Company maintains the water from its Elk River plant that goes to some 300,000 customers in parts of nine counties has been safe to use since days after the Jan. 9 chemical spill and Do Not Use water order. Jordan said it’s just the testing is getting better.
“These new results indicate this material can be detected at much, much lower levels than previously and it’s certainly a refining of the methodology in being able to test for these levels,” she said.