Report Blasts West Virginia American Water 2 Years After Elk River Spill

Jan 7, 2016

West Virginia American Water
Credit Foo Conner / Flickr

A new report released just days after the second anniversary of the Elk River Spill highlights shortcomings of the private water company that dealt with the spill. 300,000 people were told not to use their water for days following the accident.


The report asserts that privately owned West Virginia American Water hasn’t taken adequate measures to protect against potential disasters nor invested enough into  existing infrastructure, among other complaints. The report comes from Boston Action  Research - a project of the Civil Society Institute.

During a conference call with reporters the lead author, energy analyst Grant Smith, called on national and state legislators to step in.  

“The best course of action is for West Virginia to assume public ownership and operation of the Charleston regional water system,” Smith said.

Smith’s report points to Cincinnati’s system  as a potential model.

Also on the call:

Cathy Kunkel, report editor, Advocates for a Safe Water System, Charleston, West Virginia:

“In the last two years, we have learned that we have a serious infrastructure problem here. At the current rate of investment, it will take nearly 400 years for WV American Water to replace all of the water mains in our system. Main breaks are an increasingly common occurrence. This past summer, tens of thousands of people were without water for several days after a major main break. Schools have had to close early and businesses have had their inventories wiped out by water main breaks. But WV American Water is not planning to invest more in main replacement. The water company is asking for a 28 percent rate increase but it has said that, even if it gets that full rate increase, it is not going to invest any more money in replacing water mains … WV American Water is planning to double the dividend payments that get sent to its out-of-state parent company, American Water.”

Pam Nixon, Charleston, West Virginia branch of the NAACP, and former environmental advocate for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection:

“I don’t trust drinking or cooking with WV American water still today, and the feeling is the same for most in my family. We continue to buy bottled water two years later. It took 6 months for the water company to replace their carbon filters after the leak, and on the day the last filter was replaced – June 12, 2014 – there was another spill into the Elk River from the former Freedom Industry site when the sump pump at the drainage trench malfunctioned. Clean-up of the site is now underway but it won’t be complete until the fall of this year. Accidents happen at work sites, so I will continue to buy bottled water. Apart from the former Freedom Industry spill, there have been numerous water disruptions resulting from the breaks in our aging water system infrastructure. From June 23 – July 1, 2015, I was without water due to two major breaks in a 36-inch water main that was several decades old. Those two breaks in that water line disrupted service to over 20,000 people in Kanawha and Putnam counties.”