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DEP Begins Process To Designate Kanawha River For Drinking Water Use

Reported by: Send eMail Kera Mashek
Videographer: Shelby Spradling, Mike McGee
Reported: Jul. 1, 2014 10:37 PM EDT
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Kanawha River Use
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

The state is looking into a measure that could one day allow the Kanawha River to be a secondary source of drinking water. In wake of the water crisis, the idea is drawing a lot of attention.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is taking the first step in exploring how the community feels about turning the Kanawha River into a secondary water source for the area. During a public hearing Tuesday, most people were excited about the possibility, but there are certainly still some concerns.

It's been almost seven months since the Elk River chemical spill at Freedom Industries and efforts to prevent another water crisis are continuing. The DEP thinks one option to help could be to change the designation of the Kanawha River, so it could potentially be used for public drinking water.

"Get it up to that level to support the use is what we'd like to do ultimately," said Kevin Coyne, WV Water Quality Standards program manager.

Nearly everyone at the public hearing Tuesday is thrilled the DEP is looking at ways to clean up the Kanawha. It would allow for West Virginia American Water to put a second intake there, as a back-up option should the main intake on the Elk ever need to be shut off in the event of another spill.

"We are still years away from being approved. We have to still wait for the legislature next year, and we also have to submit the rule for EPA approval and that could take until January 2016," said Coyne.

But all the new rules that could come along with the change, including stricter discharge limits, are worrisome for big businesses who already legally dump materials into the Kanawha.

"Additional testing alone could mean thousands of dollars in increased costs to businesses along the Kanawha River in addition to the already greater costs for compliance," said Rebecca Randolph with the WV Manufacturing Association.

But Charleston small business owner Nancy Ward thinks the benefits of a cleaner Kanawha far outweigh the costs to big business.

"I see it as a good thing for business, and I think the only way to come out of this water crisis smelling like a rose and have people return is to show that we're really serious about cleaning up our water," said Ward.

Those in favor say another perk of the proposal other than offering a second source of drinking water is to have it cleaned up for everyone who enjoys the river for recreation on a beautiful day like.

"Any way we can clean up our rivers is a good thing!" said Ward.

If you couldn't attend Tuesday's meeting, you can still make your voice heard. Public comments can be sent to the DEP through July 21st. You can email them to dep.comments@wv.gov. They can also be mailed to the following address:

Kevin R. Coyne
Water Quality Standards Program
WV Department of Environmental Protection
601 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV 25304



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