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WV American Water Says Foam Samples Show No Change In Water Quality

Reported: Mar. 28, 2014 8:51 AM EDT
Updated: Mar. 28, 2014 8:58 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jeff Morris) – West Virginia Water Co. said testing results from foam samples in the Elk River indicate no changes in water quality, and the company shut down its intake pumps for two hours – an action it did not take during the Jan. 9 chemical spill and for which it drew sharp criticism.

Results from foam samples taken earlier Thursday in the Elk River revealed no changes to source water quality and no characteristics outside of typical water quality parameters, according to a news release from the water company. Samples taken from four different locations along the river were analyzed.

In previous statements, the company said the manner in which foam can naturally occur in waterways when organic substances like leaves decay in water, which can form congregations of air bubbles that appear as foam. Foam upstream of the water treatment plant intake appeared to dissipate by mid-afternoon and at no time was observed near the intake.

“After receiving notification of a foam on the Elk River this morning, and with the health and safety of our customers as our number one priority, we made the decision to shut down the plant’s raw water intake pumps for approximately two hours until more information could be gathered,” West Virginia American President Jeff McIntyre said in a prepared statement. “System conditions today allowed for the plant to maintain adequate water storage during this brief time, which was a very different circumstance than on the day of the Freedom Industries spill. At that time, the decision to maintain water service to customers for firefighting and basic sanitation was the best decision for the communities we serve.”

The water company maintains extremely low system storage on Jan. 9 would have left customers without water within 15 minutes to two hours if the plant had been shut down, and would have taken more than a month to restore the entire system if it was depressurized. On that day, the plant was pumping at near capacity at about 42 million gallons per day due to system demand and water main breaks associated with the polar vortex. Thursday’s system conditions would have allowed an estimated 4-5 hour shut down without impacting service to customers.

The plant resumed normal operations after water quality staff consulted with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and confirmed that no foam or film was present on the river near the plant intake, the water company said.



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