The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

January 12, 2014

Systematic flushing will be needed to clear water tanks

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said a systematic flushing procedure will be necessary in order for residents to clear their water tanks of contaminated water, and West Virginia American Water is prepared to compensate affected residents 1,000 gallons of water in order to complete the required flushing.

However, a timeline for when the flushing procedure will begin was not clear as of Saturday afternoon, as the water still needs to reach a safe level before flushing can begin.

Further testing methods have been developed since Friday to more efficiently test water samples for Crude MCHM quantities, and McIntyre assured that water will only be deemed safe to use after conclusive test results are available.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicate that drinking water is protective of public health at an MCHM level below one part per million,” said McIntyre. “These agencies do not anticipate any health effects below this level.”

West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General James Hoyer reported that MCHM levels were at 1.7 ppm as of 2 p.m. Friday, but no further MCHM levels were released Saturday as officials said they did not want to provide test results until several results from varying locations were analyzed.

“Four laboratories have been set up with the standards and methods to measure MCHM so that we can measure those levels in a uniform manner,” McIntyre said. “The Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant must consistently produce water samples indicating results at or below this level before the current ‘do not use’ order is lifted.

“At this time there are an inadequate number of safety results to report.”

Even when the water produced by the plant meets acceptable levels, extensive testing must be conducted in the distribution system before the “do not use” order is lifted, McIntyre added.

West Virginian American Water and agencies involved in the water testing process met Saturday morning to discuss the procedure and reach a consensus on a plan for systematic flushing based on hydraulic modeling of the Kanawha County Water Distribution System, but only generic details were released.

McIntyre said flushing of the water system will begin at the center location and move to the far ends of the distribution center. The process is expected to take several days and will likely be accomplished in zones due to the construction of the system.

“(The) timeline may vary based on geographic location, customer demand and other factors that impact water usage and availability,” McIntyre said. “The Kanawha Valley Water Treatment System is the largest and most complex water system in the state. It has over 100 water storage tanks and more than 1,700 miles of storage.”

At this time, West Virginia American Water reported it is prepared to offer a credit of 1,000 gallons of water to its residential customers.

“That’s not a number we just pulled out of the air,” McIntyre said, explaining that the credit should cover about 10 times the water amount necessary for customers to complete a proper flushing of their water tanks.

“It’s a very large system so we fully expect that this will be done in zones. We have over 170 different water pressure zones ... so it’s a very complex system with the mountains that we have here in West Virginia. We do believe there will be an opportunity to lift the order in zones. What that looks like at this point, I wouldn’t speculate.”

Mike Dorsey, chief of emergency response and homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the public will be fully provided with all information on current water contamination levels and testing protocol when conclusive numbers are available to be released by research teams.

— E-mail: bunderwood@register-herald.com

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