WV American Water addresses distribution toxin levels, odor issues from chemical spill

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March 12, 2014 -- According to West Virginia American Water, the results of testing for 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), a chemical used to clean mining equipment, in all measurement zones throughout the Kanawha Valley water distribution system are at the lower non-detectable level of below two parts per billion (ppb). This level is 500 times below the protective standard established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which is 1 part per million (ppm).

The presence of MCHM in the region is a result of a significant chemical spill that occurred along the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, shutting down the majority of the city and affecting about 300,000 people. The discharge originated at Freedom Industries, a provider of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement sectors, where a 48,000-gallon defective tank at the site leaked the toxic substance. Authorities believe that as much as 10,000 gallons of the chemical was released into the environment.

According to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, the CDC believes there is no evidence to suggest that levels below 10ppb would have adverse health effects. On Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, West Virginia American Water announced that all points of testing throughout the water distribution system showed that levels of MCHM from the spill were below 10ppb level but that the company would continue flushing to address odor issues.

"Since February 14, we have worked with laboratories to test down to 2ppb or less of MCHM, and as of February 25, levels of the chemical are below this non-detect threshold throughout the water distribution system," said West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre. "More than 30 employees from American Water subsidiaries in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Illinois have worked tirelessly with our West Virginia employees to flush approximately 2,000 small dead-end water mains in the system."

West Virginia American Water will continue to respond to customer reports of lingering odor. This is being done solely to address reports about odor and is not related to any health concerns. The water in the distribution system has been below the CDC-established protective standard of 1ppm since January 18. West Virginia American Water intended to continue distributing bulk water through Wednesday, March 5; however, due to weather forecasts for the rest of the week, the company officially ended its bulk water distribution efforts.

See also: "West Virginia chemical spill shuts down capital city, water supplies"

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