CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia American Water has announced the completion of a $25 million upgrade to its Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant in Charleston that is meant to improve safety measures for the company’s employees and customers.
The treatment plant, which serves approximately 85,000 customers in parts of Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Logan, Lincoln, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Roane, Jackson, and Mason counties, will now provide ultra-violet (UV) disinfection and utilizes sodium hypochlorite in lieu of gaseous chlorine.
Megan Hannah, Senior Manager, Government and External Affairs with West Virginia American Water (WVAWC) told MetroNews it took 18 months to complete the project and the upgrades to the plant have been successful operations since Dec. 2021.
“We have effectively now switched our disinfection process from gaseous chlorine, which can be a bit dangerous for own employees and the community. We’ve now totally eliminated the gaseous chlorine and have switched to liquid chlorine for our disinfection,” Hannah detailed.
Construction on upgrades at the treatment plant began in Nov. 2020 following new regulatory requirements from the U.S. EPA for the treatment of cryptosporidium in surface water systems. The Kanawha Valley plant had long been successfully treating water for cryptosporidium, but with the inclusion of UV disinfection, the plant now offers a 99.99% confidence level in removing cryptosporidium from its raw water, a release stated.
The Kanawha Valley water system is now the first in West Virginia to provide UV disinfection as part of its treatment process.
In addition to UV, the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant also converted from gaseous chlorine to sodium hypochlorite, also known as liquid chlorine, as part of its disinfection process. The conversion was not driven by a regulatory requirement but rather a safety measure for West Virginia American Water’s employees and the surrounding community.
The Kanawha Valley system is the second within West Virginia American Water to convert to sodium hypochlorite, and all systems are planned to be converted to liquid chlorine over the next eight years.
“We have always focused on the health and safety of our customers through rigorous testing of our water throughout the treatment process,” said Billie Suder, Senior Manager of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance at WVAWC said in a release.
“We can confidently say that our finished water had always been free of cryptosporidium, but we are now providing an extra level of protection to our customers through this UV process.”
Hannah said part of the funding for the project came through the customer rate process, putting ‘your water bill at work.’ She said another portion was through shareholder funding. Hannah does not expect any additional rate hikes in the future for this project.
WVAWC partnered with local contractor Oval Construction on the significant upgrades to the treatment plant, and over 50 West Virginia businesses and suppliers were utilized for various aspects of the project.