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Water Company President Says System Shutdown Would Have Had Too Many Consequences

Reported: Feb. 6, 2014 3:45 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 10, 2014 12:44 PM EST

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kennie Bass, Jeff Morris, Katelyn Sykes) – U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said at a field hearing on the water crisis in Charleston on Monday that he finds it hard to believe that West Virginia American Water’s system couldn’t have been shut down and a backup system used.

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said pipes would have burst, and big problems would have resulted from a system shutdown, with no water for sanitation or fire protection. He also said the system would not have supported a shutdown and water would have been gone within 15 minutes to two hours. McIntyre said it would have been more than a month before water would have been restored to all customers.

Manchin, D-W.Va., said he wants other water companies warned if chemical is upstream. Panelists said mapping is taking place, but no notifications have been given yet.

Panelists agreed that it is troubling that no one will say the water is safe, including the head of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Gianato, director of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is working on plans for private testing of homes. Letita Tierney, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, said MCHM shouldn’t stick to pipes, but there has been no official word from the EPA on that subject.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jeff Morris) -- Several West Virginia congressional representatives skewered Freedom Industries and its president on Monday for declining to attend a field hearing in Charleston on the water crisis.

"There is an odor emenating from Freedom Industries, and it's not licorice," Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., said.

Rahall said he believes it speaks volumes that Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the chemical spill that led to a water crisis in nine counties, and its president, Gary Southern, were not at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s field hearing Monday.

The congressman said Sunday marked one month since the chemical leak, and a "lingering worry" remains in communities about the safety of the drinking water and communities have a right to know the truth.

Rahall said there were distressing blind spots and errors that occurred before the chemical leak happened, and he wants the federal government to work with the state to come up with legislation to prevent future disasters.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said it is disappointing that Southern and Freedom Industries chose not to attend the hearing.

"Unfortunately, he (Southern) chose not to be here to answer what his company has done, and I find that very telling," Capito said.

Capito said she plans to introduce the Insuring Access to Clean Water Act, and she said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

Manchin said when he is in West Virginia, he has been using the water as he normally would use it, but he knows that is not the case for everyone. He said there needs to be a balance between the environment and business.

"This spill should have never happened. There's no excuse for it," Manchin said. "This is a wakeup call for this country."

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Bethany Simmons) - Eyewitness News will live stream the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s field hearing Monday about the water crisis in West Virginia on WCHSTV.com.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday at the Kanawha County Courthouse.

Witnesses listed for the hearing include WV American Water President Jeff McIntyre; WV Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianto; Cabell County Emergency Services Director Gordon Merry; U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso; Kanawha County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Dale Petry; WV Homeland Security and Emergency Response Director Mike Dorsey and Dr. Letitita Tierney of the Bureau for Public Health.

Gary Southern, president of Freedom Industries, was also invited to attend the event, but has not confirmed his appearance.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) -- Witnesses have been announced for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s field hearing next week on the West Virginia water crisis.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Monday at the Kanawha County Courthouse.

Witnesses listed for the hearing are West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre; West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianto; Cabell County Emergency Services Director Gordon Merry; U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso; Kanawha County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Dale Petry; West Virginia Homeland Security and Emergency Response Director Mike Dorsey and Dr. Letitita Tierney of the Bureau for Public Health.

Freedom Industries President Gary Southern has been invited, but has not confirmed his appearance.

“Many questions about the spill itself and the response of both the company involved and government agencies remain unanswered.,” U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who serves on the committee, said in a news release. “As a mother, a grandmother, and a resident of the Kanawha Valley, I understand the fear, trepidation and anger that people feel, because I feel it too. Monday’s hearing will help ensure that answers about this spill are provided to the people of West Virginia.”

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also serves on the committee as its senior ranking Democrat.

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