CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A spokesperson for West Virginia American Water Company said most of the information the company plans on submitting to the state Public Service Commission concerning its response to the Jan. 9 chemical leak on the Elk River is information already released to the public.
The PSC opened a general investigation to the company’s response last week. It wants to find out if best practices were used when WVAWC decided against shutting down its water intake at the Elk River plant in Charleston. The water became contaminated with Crude MCHM leaked from the Freedom Industries site just up river and a Do Not Use order had to be issued for residents in parts of nine counties.
WVAWC spokesperson Laura Jordan said the company has been very forthcoming about how it made its decisions.
“We’ve actually provided that information numerous times to the public and to various public officials but we will be sure to provide that timeline to the Public Service Commission and provide the details about the decisions that were made in response to the spill and how they were made in collaboration with various agencies,” Jordan said.
PSC spokesperson Susan Small said the commission is looking for specifics.
“What were the circumstances at the time the company discovered the leak? What was the decision process that led to the decision not to shut-off the intake,” she said.
WVAWC has said shutting off the intake would have placed its customers in more jeopardy by possibly shutting down fire response and sanitary sewer capabilities.
Jordan said the company views the general investigation similar to a PSC review of the response of utilities following the 2012 derecho. She said WVAWC cooperated in that investigation.
“I see this as a standard practice for the Public Service Commission as part of their role,” she said.
Small said the agency doesn’t often take this step.
“Normally the commission would be responding to cases that are brought to it, but in this circumstance, there are so many outstanding questions that the commission decided that they really wanted to launch this on their own and look at the operating practices of West Virginia American,” Small said.
Those wishing to intervene in the case have until June 25 to do so. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled to begin Oct. 7.
The PSC cannot award damages but can order WVAWC to follow reasonable practices if the commission feels they were not followed.