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West Virginia American Water Update: Elk River foam testing complete
In previous statements, the company explained the manner in which foam can naturally occur in waterways when organic substances like leaves decay in water, which can form congregations of air bubbles that appear as foam. Foam upstream of the water treatment plant intake appeared to dissipate by mid-afternoon and at no time was observed near the intake.
“After receiving notification of a foam on the Elk River this morning, and with the health and safety of our customers as our number one priority, we made the decision to shut down the plant’s raw water intake pumps for approximately two hours until more information could be gathered,” said president Jeff McIntyre. “System conditions today allowed for the plant to maintain adequate water storage during this brief time, which was a very different circumstance than on the day of the Freedom Industries spill. At that time, the decision to maintain water service to customers for firefighting and basic sanitation was the best decision for the communities we serve.”
Extremely low system storage on January 9 would have left customers without water within 15 minutes to two hours if the plant had been shut down, and would have taken more than a month to restore the entire system if it was depressurized. On that day, the plant was pumping at near capacity at about 42 million gallons per day due to system demand and water main breaks associated with the polar vortex. Today’s system conditions would have allowed an estimated 4-5 hour shut down without impacting service to customers.
The plant resumed normal operations after water quality staff consulted with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, as well as confirmed that no foam or film was present on the river near the plant intake.