WV American Water: Progress or PR?

Last week, WV American Water began sending this mailing to its customers.  There is a lot of talk in the mailer about all the wonderful things WV American Water has in store for us, but haven’t happened yet.  This list includes:

  • a fancy source water protection database that the company claims is the greatest ever,
  • an engineering study, still incomplete, to determine if a second water intake is feasible,
  • a public notification system,
  • installation of an early source water monitoring system,
  • and a new system for detecting leaks, which they sorely need given that they are losing 35% of their processed water.

All of these items have yet to happen, but the notification system will apparently be in place in early 2015.  Although the leak detection system is now in place, WVAW says nothing about whether they have reduced their shameful 35% leak rate.

WV American Water also described real progress in its mailer:

  • They have installed two gas chromatograph/mass spectrometers, and have added a technician to run them.  This is an important step but it only gets the company back to where it was in 2004, when WVAW removed similar onsite testing equipment.  At the time of the Freedom spill, the only onsite analysis available to WVAW technicians was taste and smell.
  • The early source water detection system, although the mailer gives no projected date for its installation, would be a huge step forward.  The company appears committed to installing something, the only question remains when.

So, while the investigation, research, etc. mentioned in the mailer is great, the only real hard progress that WVAW has made is the installation of the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometers.  Most of the rest is just computer software and hardware, and promises that something might happen in the future.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the Freedom disaster, we need more than promises.  WVAW has also taken most of these steps behind closed doors with no discussion with local leaders, its customers or the public.  As we know from the WV PSC general investigation, this is the way the company does business.  The mailer is the first the public has heard of any of these steps.

So far, so good, but we need more from WVAW, much more.

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