CHARLESTON – West Virginia American Water has agreed to improve the way it will monitor potential threats to the water system and how it communicates with the public, according to a settlement.

The settlement could lead to the end of the investigation by the West Virginia Public Service Commission that began after the 2014 chemical spill into the Elk River by Freedom Industries.

Even though Freedom was responsible for the chemical spill, WVAW drew criticism because of how it responded to the incident.

Its response led to the contaminated water getting into the Kanawha Valley Treatment plant and contaminating the water supply that spanned over nine counties and more than 300,000 West Virginians.

On Jan. 25, WVAW entered into a settlement agreement wherein the company agreed to comply with several stipulations, including source water protection planning, contingency planning, communications with the public and increased monitoring for contaminants in the water.

WVAW has already created and filed a Source Water Protection Plan with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, which, according to the settlement agreement, will be updated periodically as required by the existing law, but the next update must be finalized by July 1, 2019. The public will have an active part in the updating of the plan.

According to the agreement, WVAW will maintain an incident/event responding system compliant with the Bureau of Public Health requirements and there will also be specified levels of response communication that depend on the severity of the incident.

The water company has also agreed to install and maintain monitoring systems that meet technical capabilities specified by state code and widen the category of contaminants the systems can detect.

In the agreement, WVAW can now request cost recovery to build two water tanks at Amandaville to provide an additional eight million gallons of storage for its west relay.

WVAW, the state Public Service Commission, the Consumer Advocate and counsel for business intervenors all sighed the agreement. While it did not oppose any of the terms, Advocates for a Safe Water System did not sign the agreement.

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