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It’s been nearly three days since a “do not use” water advisory was issued for more than 300,000 people in the Kanawha Valley, but now officials are saying the end may be in sight.
It took a team of chemists from the National Guard a full day to produce a method testing the amount of crude MCHM in the water at the contaminated treatment facility. The chemical is used in a coal washing process and leaked into the water supply Thursday morning from a storage tank along the Elk River.
Col. Greg Grant said the amount of chemical present is trending downward with each test, but must be consistently below 1 part per million for a 24 hour period before West Virginia American Water can begin to flush their piping system.
“What we’re looking at is a broad spectrum of data that gives us a composite look at this water over a period of time to make sure it’s safe,” he said at a press conference Saturday night, “and those data points are showing that we are moving in the right direction.”
Grant said his teams would collect more than 100 samples overnight from the treatment plant and throughout the system to increase the data set and give them more accurate information.
“These individual samples are like a puzzle piece. We have a bunch of puzzle pieces, but we don’t have the picture yet,” added West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre.
An outside contractor has been hired to help expedite the testing process of these samples, a process they’ve narrowed down from 46 to 18 minutes.
McIntyre said it will still likely take days to flush the system even if they have the proper data set Sunday, but customers should not start flushing their own plumbing now.
McIntyre warned running your water will deplete the amount they are able to test and compromise the recovery efforts. Customers will be given detailed directions on how to handle the process at the appropriate time.