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Water company to begin filter change

By Dave Boucher, Capitol Bureau Chief

West Virginia American Water Co. is set to start replacing filters today at its Charleston treatment plant, following public concern about how the Freedom Industries chemical leak might have affected the equipment.

The Elk River facility was overwhelmed on Jan. 9, hours after state officials discovered thousands of gallons of crude MCHM and other chemicals leaking from a faulty storage tank into the river.

Water company executives pledged to change the filters shortly after the spill, thought they insisted the filters were not compromised in any way. They said they would do so to help “public perception.”

Meanwhile, people continued to complain of the telltale licorice odor of crude MCHM coming from their taps.

Test results recently released by the water company show some of that chemical trapped by the filter was leaching into the drinking water. The amount was far below what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered unacceptable for consumption.

Weather, high need for water and the availability of the contractor that will actually conduct the change delayed starting the work, water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said.

The facility has 16 filters, each filled with tons of granular activated carbon. Calgon Carbon, the company replacing the carbon in the filters, arrived at the facility Monday and plans to start work at 8 a.m.

“The plan is to take two filters out of service each week to change the carbon while the other 14 filters maintain the necessary treatment for the system,” Jordan said.

It takes about two or three days to change out the 60,000 pounds of carbon in each filter, she said. The company anticipates the change could take eight weeks if everything goes according to plan.

The company is using “virgin carbon” as opposed to carbon that was once used but has since been cleaned by a company like Calgon Carbon, Jordan added.

State and private officials are still trying to learn more about the chemicals involved in the leak. Several investigations into Freedom Industries are ongoing.

A group of scientists hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is slated to host a panel discussion this morning about the possible health effects of the recent spill.

More than 500 people were treated at hospitals across the nine-county area affected by the spill, complaining of symptoms they believed were connected to the spill.

The CDC has not yet completed a report that could confirm whether those symptoms were definitely associated with the spill.

The event at West Virginia State University today will include several public and private health officials from around the world discussing those possible health effects. Look for coverage of the event in Wednesday’s Daily Mail.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at david.boucher@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www,Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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