CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There have been jokes about three-eyed fish in the Kanawha River for decades but when the Elk River water crisis happened in January no one was joking when they questioned why West Virginia American Water didn’t have a back-up intake system from the Kanawha River.

Now the state Department of Environmental Protection is proposing a change to state regulations that would redesignate the Kanawha as acceptable for drinking water intake. It would have to be approved by the state Legislature.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said four decades ago the Kanawha was a different body of water.

“That river in those days was so polluted it was just not fit for a water source at all,” Carper said Thursday.

However, the commissioner said there’s been a lot of change since the early 80s, especially when it comes to what companies can dump into the river. He agreed it’s time to change the designation on parts of the Kanawha to allow for WVAWC to create a second intake upstream from the Elk that could run Kanawha water into the company’s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.

Carper stressed WVAWC should have had an alternative water source decades ago but the chemical leak into the Elk on Jan. 9, that forced a Do Not Use order for more than 100,000 customers, really hit home the point.

“Sometimes you have to get hit over the head with a stick before you wake up,” Carper said.

West Virginia American isn’t willing to jump on the band wagon just yet. A spokesperson for the company said they’d have to take a look at the cost of the project to determine if it would even be feasible.

Carper said feasible or not, the company can no longer afford a single intake system.

“Most water companies have already done that in other areas. With all due respect this was and continues to be the responsibility of the water company,” according to the commissioner.

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  • Carmen Rutledge

    Memo to Carper:

    SHUT UP, SHUT UP, please God, just SHUT your mouth. Once and for all time

  • William Glasser

    Carper " agreed it’s time to change the designation on parts of the Kanawha...."

    If this conclusion is based on opinion...well, you know what they say about opinion.

    If Carper is correct then that is a remarkable turn around from the 2012 report that of the approximately 342,000 pounds of
    chemicals linked to reproductive disorders that were were "released to more than 1,100 waterways, West Virginia’s Kanawha River received the heaviest dose of reproductive toxicants."

    If DEP has recent benthic studies, fish histoligies, sediment analyses, toxicity bioassays, bioaccumulation results, organic panels, interactivity studies, metals fates and chemistry data, by all means release it publicly to put all of us critics in our place.

    If this is just opinion. Well, you know what they say about opinion.

    In any event, to begin use of the Kanawha for a drinking water source with the current level of DEP enforcement and corporate responsibility is contraindicated.

    Storage a la Curly Joe is a better way to go.

    • The bookman

      Please call in to Hoppy's show the next time Carper is on. I would live to hear the 35 seconds of dead radio silence following that question to the "Commish."

  • Curly Joe

    Long term, but start now, build a reservoir in one of the valleys along the Kanawha River. There has to be ample flow from a Kanawha tributary to fill the reservoir with "more pure" mountain stream water.

    • FungoJoe

      The County already owns Coonskin Park. Just carve out a hole in the ground about 30 feet deep the size of Coonskin and fill it up. And presto, instant Coonskin Reservoir.

  • David

    The bottom of the Kanawha river is likely covered with several feet of toxic sludge...

    They may not be putting as much chemicals in the river as they used to but they never cleaned up the existing stuff.


  • Richard

    They should have had their water intake above the Elk as the old Elk river refinery is a chemical waste site.

  • Gus

    Commissioner Carper gains access to inside info while serving in his public office so that he and his law firm can benefit financially. There are no ethics left in West Virginia.