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WV American Water Gives Eyewitness News Tour Of Charleston Facility

Reported: Feb. 12, 2014 11:36 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Rick Lord) -- West Virginia American Water gave Eyewitness News a tour of its treatment facility along the Elk River on Wednesday, providing a firsthand look at where the water comes in and all the processes it goes through before being sent out to taps. It's a plant that pumps out about 40 million gallons of treated water a day.

Water treatment is a process full of high-tech jargon and hard-to-pronounce chemistry, but here are the basics: Water comes in through filters where it’s treated and pumped across the plant, where polymers and coagulants are added to make the sediment in the water bond together. That makes it easier to sink at the clarifiers.

"The water is much cleaner now than it was in 1972,” WV American Water Senior Maintenance Specialist Tod Reddy said. “The water coming out of the clarifiers now would have been permissible to go out into the system then."

But in 2014, we are nowhere near done. From the clarifiers, it's on to a room, where those infamous carbon filters further catch any impurities. These are the filters that were overwhelmed by MCHM on Jan. 9. They will be changed, but that process has not yet begun.

"Right now, we need all 16 to keep up with demand," Reddy said.

But for now, they're still in use. As for the water that goes through them, it gets a blast of chlorine and fluoride, and then the treated water is pumped to the distribution tanks, all of which are monitored here in control central.

"We have 200 sites that we're seeing at all times,” booster technician Tim Cummings said. “Tank levels- we have tanks, booster stations, pressure-reducing valves, a mixture of all three throughout the system."

The entire process is one that the water company stands behind. They also stand behind their decision to not shut the facility down when they learned of the MCHM leak.

"Think about all the buildings that are reliant on sprinklers and need fire protection in place and how many buildings wouldn't be allowed to be open because they wouldn’t meet fire code,” Laura Jordan, of WV American Water, said. “In addition, not being able to flush toilets and not have sanitation. It would have meant a very large scale catastrophe that would have required people to move out of the valley if this entire system had truly been depressurized."

It takes about two hours from the time the water is sucked in from the Elk River until it gets pumped out to the distribution tanks. Jordan continues to say that the process of changing those carbon filters should begin sometime in the spring.



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