Chemical Leak
12:18 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Update: Testing at WVAM Indicates Filtering Process Adds Trace Amounts of MCHM to Water Supply

Credit West Virginia American Water

Updated Tuesday, March 25 at 1:15 p.m.: 

Test results from sampling conducted by the National Guard in and around West Virginia American Water's Elk River plant indicate trace levels of MCHM are being added to the water supply during the filtering process. The results come from 42 samples collected--from various stages of the water treatment process--from Friday, March 21 at 6 p.m. through Saturday, March 22 at  6 a.m.

Results indicate raw water from the Elk River and settled water from post clarifiers (an early stage in the treatment process)--both east and west--are returning non-detectable levels of MCHM. However, results from east and west filters range from non-detectable levels to 0.60 parts per billion (ppb). Results from the finished samples, which have completed all stages of the treatment process, range from non-detectable levels to 0.53 ppb.

Credit Foo Conner / Flickr

Click here to see the results.

The water company has not changed filters at its Elk River plant since the January 9 spill by Freedom Industries contaminated the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians and caused a days-long ban on using water from the tap.

West Virginia American Water president McIntyre said in a news release the company plans to begin changing out 500 tons of Granular Activated Carbon in the plant’s 16 filters as soon as "operational conditions allow, which is scheduled to begin next week.”

Samples from this round of tests were sent to Eurofins Lancaster Laboratory Environmental in Lancaster, Pa. on Saturday for testing and results were released Tuesday afternoon. The lab is one of two being used by the independent, in-home testing and assessment project WV TAP.

Maximum Detection Level ranges from 0.38 ppb to 0.45 ppb, depending on the sample, according to a news release from West Virginia American Water.

“This new round of sampling and testing demonstrates the ability of laboratories to test and report at levels lower than previous rounds of testing.  The detected levels are 2,000 times lower than the CDC’s health-protective screening level,” said McIntyre in a news release.

WV TAP project manager Dr. Andrew Whelton confirmed, based on West Virginia American Water's results, that the filtering process is adding 4-MCHM to the water supply. 

Original Post from Tuesday March 25 at 12:18 p.m.:

Researchers conducting an independent, taxpayer-funded testing and assessment project following the January 9 spill of MCHM into the Elk River say traces of the chemical are still be exiting West Virginia American Water's treatment plant downstream of the spill site.

In a news release issued Tuesday, WV TAP researchers said they requested Gov. Tomblin to authorize testing by the National Guard in and around the treatment plant on March 18, after their own tests indicated that MCHM was present in one of the homes of the first customers at a level less than 1.0 parts per billion (ppb), but greater than 0.5 ppb.

"This finding implied that there could be a source of 4-MCHM in the water treatment facility," said researchers in the release.

Researchers say results released indicate levels that were below the 10 ppb screening level set by the state Department of Health and Human Resources and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 1,000 ppb screening level for 4-MCHM.

"Based on this single sample the WV TAP team felt that additional sampling would help in understanding the source, levels and extent of the 4-MCHM occurrence," researchers explained in the release.

The WV TAP team suggested that West Virginian American Water conduct sampling before, within, and following their water treatment plant. Researchers said the water company immediately responded collected samples on Friday, March 21. The following day, collected samples were sent to  Eurofins Lancaster Laboratory Environmental, one of the two laboratories collaborating with the independent project.

The laboratory has the capability to test levels of the chemical down to 0.5 ppb, according to the release from WV TAP.

West Virginia American Water is expected to release results of the testing Tuesday.