Chris Schulz Published

Hearings Set To Determine If Paden City Utility Are Distressed Or Failing

water sample, chemical test, water testKozorog/Adobe Stock

The Public Service Commission (PSC) of West Virginia will hold public comment and evidentiary hearings Jan. 11, 2024, to determine whether the City of Paden City and Paden City Municipal Water Works is a distressed or failing utility.

The evidentiary hearing begins at 10 a.m. at the Paden City Municipal Building, 208 W. Main, Paden City. A public comment hearing will be held that same day at the same location beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The PSC opened proceedings on Nov. 3 into complaints about Paden City’s water and sewer systems. The preliminary investigation revealed that for years residents have dealt with contaminated water from a chemical called Tetrachloroethylene or PCE that is commonly used in dry cleaning. The United States Environmental Protection Agency added the Paden City Groundwater site to the Superfund National Priorities List, a list of hazardous waste sites eligible for remedial cleanup funding, in 2021. The EPA considers PCE as likely to be carcinogenic to humans. 

According to PSC documents, two of the utility’s three air strippers – used to remove PCE from water – failed in 2018 and 2019. Although one of the strippers was repaired, levels as high as 21 parts per billion (ppb) of PCE have been recorded, above the federal maximum of 5 ppb.

The PSC filings detail a more recent incident in 2023, when a bypass valve for the air stripper failed, allowing a large percentage of water to bypass the air stripper unit and enter the finished water system.  

The city filed a response on Nov. 20 that it is not a distressed utility and is not in “continual violation” of statutory or regulatory standards. It also said it took proper steps to remove PCE from its distribution system. This includes applying for emergency funding through USDA Rural Development as well as an application with the Emergency and Imminent Community Water Assistance Grants Program after excessive PCE levels were detected in 2018.

Both systems serve customers in Wetzel and Tyler counties. The City of Paden City is a municipal utility that provides service to 1,262 sewer customers; and Paden City Municipal Water Works provides water service to 1,204 customers.