Water Company Preparing For Toxic Algae On Ohio River
3 September 2015
By Ken Ward Jr., Environment Reporter
West Virginia American Water Co. on Thursday began running new
pipelines to use the Guyandotte River as a temporary water supply
for its Huntington drinking water plant in response to continuing
concerns about a potentially toxic algae bloom on the Ohio River,
West Virginia American said it began work on the project -- which
involves large, raw water lines that will run about 3,000 to 4,000
feet -- after receiving test results that indicated “elevated
levels” of microcystin, a toxin that can be produced by the type
of blue-green algae that’s been spotted on the Ohio.
In a press release, West Virginia American said that current
levels “do not present an immediate risk” to the drinking water
system, but that “forecasted weather may cause algal blooms to
increase and require additional response actions.”
“West Virginia American Water initiated this contingency plan
today after reviewing testing results and considering the time
required to construct a temporary alternate intake,” said company
President Jeff McIntyre.
“We have great confidence in our treatment plant’s capabilities
and ultimately may not need to use this backup source,” McIntyre
said. “However, after all of the factors, we feel the best
decision is to take extra precaution for the protection of our
customers in the event that the blooms worsen.”
The Huntington treatment and distribution plant serves more than
39,000 customers and also sells water to the communities of
Lavalette and to Chesapeake, Ohio.
West Virginia American’s announcement is the latest in a series of
responses to the Ohio River situation since the blue-green algae
was first discovered two weeks ago just on the upriver side of the
Pike Island Locks and Dam, about two miles upstream from the
drinking water intake for Wheeling.
Blue-green algae usually grow in lakes, ponds and slow-moving
streams when the water is warm and polluted with an excess of
nutrients, such as phosphorous or nitrogen. Algae blooms can be
related to fertilizer runoff, sewage overflows and other pollution
issues, but the exact cause of this incident has not yet been
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency posted an interactive map
showing algae test results, and the West Virginia Department of
Environmental Protection added a link to that map to its website.
Laura Jordan, a spokeswoman for West Virginia American Water, said
that the highest result from the company’s own testing of raw
water at its Huntington intake was 1.7 parts per billion. That
compares to a U.S. Environmental Protection health advisory of 1.6
parts per billion for the general public, and 0.3 parts per
billion for children 6 years and younger for drinking water.
The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, which regulates
drinking water utilities, said only that it is continuing to
monitor the situation with other agencies and has provided
information about blue-green algae to local health departments and
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