West Virginia American Water lifted nearly 20,000 customers from the do-not-use order overnight Wednesday. Laura Jordan, external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water, said 69,000 customers served by the Charleston water treatment plant now have safe tap water.
These latest water restorations come nearly a week after West Virginia American Water issued its largest do-not-use order in its history - an order that about 30,000 customers are still following as officials continue to test water throughout the water company's 1,500 miles of affected pipeline.
The order was lifted for 4,200 customers in southeastern parts of Kanawha County at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, including Marmet, Belle, Chesapeake, Cabin Creek, Pratt and Paint Creek. An additional 1,000 customers were given the green light at 11 p.m. Wednesday in smaller, isolated areas, including Eagle View, Beacon Ridge and Yeager Airport. Two hundred customers in the Mount Alpha and Lower Donnally areas of Charleston were lifted from the order at 12:40 a.m. Thursday, and an additional 13,000 customers were lifted as of 6:55 a.m. Thursday in areas including, Culloden, Hamlin, Cross Lanes, Poca and Nitro, as well as all Boone County customers.
About 1,800 more customers in Charleston were lifted from the advisory Monday afternoon.
Jordan said test results are looking good in areas that have not yet been lifted from the do-not-use advisory. She said information provided to her at a debriefing this morning indicated none of the 17 water samples taken between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday from the water distribution system in areas still under the advisory came back with more than 1 part per million of crude MCHM.
Jordan said the company is closer to its goal of full restoration but could not provide a timeline on when all customers could expect to have safe water.
"They do have a plan in place, but I can't tell you exactly how long that plan is going to take," Jordan said.
Areas are lifted from the do-not-use order after samples collected by an interagency team including the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, West Virginia American Water and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consistently show less than one part per million of the coal-cleaning chemical, crude MCHM, for a 24-hour period. This safety threshold was set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and reviewed and confirmed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Public Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation Wednesday night "out of an abundance of caution" that pregnant women not drink affected water until all "detectable" amounts of the chemical are out of the water.
Jordan said the operations team continued work at the same pace Wednesday, but the new recommendation is what led to a 12-hour period of time Wednesday when no new zones were lifted.
"Yesterday, we were informed earlier in the day by state officials that the CDC may have revised guidelines since the ones they gave us shortly after the spill occurred," Jordan said. "All of our restoration efforts had been based around that number. We were not able to lift any additional numbers until we received notice from the CDC, in writing, what those additional guidelines were."
Jordan said despite customers' fear that drinking water deemed safe may have adverse affects, West Virginia American Water stands by the safety of the water in cleared areas. She said the water company trusts the guidance it is receiving from federal and state agencies, and has also had independent conversations with toxicologists to verify the safety of their course of action.