CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former Putnam County Public Service District employee says West Virginia American Water Company should have closed its intake at the Kanawha Valley plant when they became aware that the chemical MCHM was in water on Jan. 9, 2014.
Fred Stottlemeyer was the only person to testify before the state Public Service Commission Thursday. He represents the Advocates for a Safe Water System.
“The decision to close the intake should’ve been made much, much earlier,” Stottlemeyer told the PSC.
The PSC is looking into how the water company reacted to the chemical spill from the Freedom Industries tank farm just upstream from the Charleston plant on the Elk River. The spill impacted drinking water for about 300,000 residents in parts of nine West Virginia counties.
Stottlemeyer was the only witness to testify ahead of an evidentiary hearing to be held later this month. He builds water systems in Central America and undeveloped countries, so he will be out of the country during the time of the hearing.
Cathy Kunkel with Advocates for a Safe Water System said the tanks that feed downtown Charleston were about 1/3 full.
“They did not shut off the intake at all because parts of their system would’ve gone dry very quickly because of the low storage,” Kunkel said. “In fact, some of their tanks were empty at the time.”
Stottlemeyer’s testified the water company should’ve had better chemical testing equipment available at the plant to deal with the spill.
“Fred’s opinion was that they should’ve closed the intake when they became aware of the chemical in the raw water,” Kunkel told MetroNews.
There hasn’t been a reason why WVAWC didn’t have full tanks, Kunkel said, so she’s hoping to hear more of an explanation at the next hearing.
“At the end of the month the water companys’ witnesses are going to testify so we might hear more of their side of the story then, but so far in this case there hasn’t really been any clear explanation that I’ve seen of why the water company could’ve have been operating with higher levels of stored water,” she said.
The hearing will resume Jan. 24.