Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
More than a thousand people in Kanawha and Boone counties have been without water for the past couple days, as a result of water main breaks on WV American Water’s system. Some businesses have also temporarily shut down. According to yesterday’s Daily Mail,
Although crews worked Monday to restore water service to more than 1,000 customers in Kanawha and Boone counties after weekend cold temperatures caused the widespread water main breaks, customers and city officials were losing patience.
Service was restored to “most” customers in South Charleston and “some” in Boone County late Monday afternoon, according to a press statement from West Virginia American Water.
“The customer outages we are experiencing are due to multiple water main breaks and high system demand that have drained water storage tanks and hampered recovery efforts,” West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said in the news release.
This all sounds very familiar.
We already knew that WV American Water’s Kanawha Valley system loses about 37% of its water — far higher than the Public Service Commission’s standard of 15%. Now, for two years in a row, we have seen severe weather (i.e. winter) impact quality of service and put customers at risk. Mr. McIntyre has repeatedly stated that the main breaks and leaks in the system on January 9th, 2014 contributed to the water company being unable to shut off its intake to let the MCHM spill pass without having the system go dry. Indeed, a number of the storage tanks in the downtown Charleston area were at or nearly empty on January 9th, meaning that they would not be able to supply water very long to customers if the intake were shut off.
Luckily, this winter we haven’t seen another major chemical spill into the Elk. If we had, it looks like our infrastructure would be just as unprepared.