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Many potential pollutants upstream of Huntington

Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer Sandy Johnson explains the Trace 1310 Gas Chromatograph during a tour of the West Virginia American Water treatment facility on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Huntington.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer
Sandy Johnson explains the Trace 1310 Gas Chromatograph during a tour of the West Virginia American Water treatment facility on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia American Water’s Huntington Treatment Plant carries a high susceptibility ranking for contamination with more potentially significant contaminants upstream than any other water system in the area, but very little is known about those pollutants and their impact on Cabell County’s main water supply, according to a state report published in June 2003.

The unanswered questions may come as unsettling in light of a Jan. 9 chemical spill, which leaked Crude MCHM from Freedom Industries into the Elk River and subsequently into the water company’s Kanawha Valley intake a mile downstream.

West Virginia American Water claimed to have zero knowledge of the chemical’s presence at Freedom Industries, but reassures those living in Cabell County that adequate monitoring exists upstream and at Huntington’s water intakes to detect almost anything before it impacts the local water supply, said Sandy Johnson, water quality supervisor at the Huntington Treatment Plant. Her facility also benefits from a catalog of top concerns as cataloged by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).

“New chemicals are produced every day, new industry is moving in every day, so you can’t be 100 percent prepared,” she said. “We’ve been on the Ohio River. We know what is there all of the time. We’re testing it. I’m proud of the Ohio River that it has cleaned up over years. Instead of being more polluted, it’s getting cleaner and cleaner. I’m very proud of getting our water from there.”

A state report regarded by some authorities and experts as Huntington’s best inventory of possible contaminants relies on more than decade-old information. The June 2003 assessment cataloged possible sites and placed each on a map with no further details identifying the potential contaminant, according to officials at the state Source Water Assessment and Wellhead Protection Program.

State officials followed the assessment in 2006 with an emergency contingency and land management plan for Huntington, but like the initial effort, Source Water Protection leaders said it did little to detail specific contaminants.

Also still lacking nearly 11 years later is the June 2003 report’s prescribed next step, a source water protection plan. Officials cited a lack of funding…

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