CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As Saturday’s second anniversary of the January 2014 Elk River chemical spill approaches, citizen groups are releasing a report to promote their proposal for a public takeover of the West Virginia American Water Co. regional drinking water system that serves hundreds of thousands of people in the Kanawha Valley and surrounding communities.
The report says West Virginia American remains unprepared to respond to major pollution incidents affecting its source water, is moving too slowly to maintain and upgrade its water-delivery infrastructure and continues to seek large rate increases from customers.
“WVAW serves as an example of how things can go wrong when transparency and accountability suffer in a privatized water scheme,” states the report, called “West Virginia American Water Company and the Case for Public Ownership and Operation.”
The 75-page report from the Civil Society Institute, a Boston-based think tank and nonprofit organization, was released Thursday with support from the Advocates for a Safe Water System, a Charleston group formed after the chemical spill, and the Charleston branch of the NAACP.
Cathy Kunkel, a report editor for the Advocates group, said residents have learned in the past two years that the Kanawha Valley has “a serious infrastructure problem” with its water system.
“Main breaks are an increasingly common occurrence,” Kunkel said. “At the current rate of investment, it will take nearly 400 years for WV American Water to replace all of the water mains in our system.”