AP News

W.Va. utility giving credits after chemical spill


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia residents and small businesses who had to stop using water because the supply was tainted by a chemical spill will get a break on their bills after having to run faucets to clear out their systems.

One-time relief credits in the $10 to $20 range could start trickling in this week for West Virginia American Water customers, who still are skeptical of the water quality after last month's spill. The credits will cost the company $1 million, spokeswoman Laura Jordan said.

President Jeff McIntyre said his water company is trying to rebuild public trust of its water, which officials weeks ago deemed safe for everyone but pregnant women to drink.

The water company has said its filters should be fine after the spill. But West Virginia American Water plans to switch them out as early as next month because of perception issues, McIntyre told a state House of Delegates health committee Monday.

Filters at the plant were successfully treating the chemical for about an hour on Jan. 9 before it overwhelmed the system that afternoon, McIntyre said.

McIntyre also discovered that decades-old original plans for the Charleston water plant included a second water intake. But government officials nixed the idea for an alternate water source at the plant completed in 1973, he said.

"I don't believe it was ever discussed again, but I can't say that for a fact," McIntyre said. "We're still researching."

The Jan. 9 chemical spill by Freedom Industries spurred a water ban that lasted four to 10 days for 300,000 residents.

West Virginia American Water will give small businesses a 2,000-gallon credit worth about $20.58 per water bill. The credit for 5,280 affected small businesses accounts for flushing their systems and additional cleaning requirements.

Many small businesses were temporarily shuttered without access to clean water, and they faced health department cleanup requirements to reopen. Several have sued Freedom Industries over lost profits, but the company's bankruptcy proceedings have temporarily frozen those lawsuits.

Residents across nine counties will get a 1,000-gallon credit, or about 10 days of normal water use. President Jeff McIntyre said Monday the water company plans to start applying credits this week, pending state Public Service Commission approval.


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