Safe water system not included in proposed rate hike

In his testimony in the rate case, WV American Water president Jeff McIntyre notes that, in response to last year’s water crisis, his company has “begun taking careful, thorough and deliberate steps to evaluate measures to enhance the resiliency of our systems.”

Here is the progress that WV American Water says it has made since the water crisis (see pp. 420-422 of the utility’s rate case filing):

  • Sourcewater protection: the company is developing “an advanced, dynamic, automated tool and contaminate information database that will periodically update information on potential contaminant sources within the system’s zone of critical concern.” While the company has been busy developing this fancy database – which, incidentally, has no projected date of operation – it has never stated whether it knows anything more today about what is stored at the 27 facilities that were identified for it by the BPH back in 2002 as potentially signficiant contaminant sources.
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  • Real-time chemical monitoring of the Elk River: WV American Water “has purchased and is installing monitoring equipment.” This is the monitoring equipment that the company had told the legislature would already be installed in the first quarter of this year. According to chemists working with Advocates for a Safe Water System, the instruments that the company selected can’t detect MCHM.
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  • Second source: WVAW has “commissioned a detailed engineering report” to look at second source options, and a separate “yearlong study of the Kanawha River water quality.” The company’s preliminary estimate is that adding a second source to each of its nine water systems would cost $184 million to over $272 million.
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  • Infrastructure renewal: While the company has “more than doubled its investment in water main replacement over the past five years,” at the current rate of investment it would take nearly 400 years to replace all of the pipes. It would cost an additional $12.3 million a year to get the infrastructure replacement down to a more reasonable 100-year replacement cycle (i.e. pipes replaced once every hundred years). The company is not proposing to make that investment in this rate case.
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  • Emergency planning: The company is “developing a platform” to better alert customers to emergencies, and has also bought two 7,000 water tankers for emergency use. The company didn’t have anything else to say about whether it has been improving coordination with emergency responders or revising its out-of-date emergency plans.
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In other words, despite the 30% proposed rate hike for residential customers, the water company is still “planning to plan” on most of the elements of a safe water system.

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