Water Specialist Won’t Drink the Water
14 April 2014
By Rachel Molenda, Staff writer
One water treatment specialist said Monday that Crude MCHM
continues to be released by West Virginia American Water’s carbon
filters, and he won’t drink the tap water until all 16 are
“I knew that the filters at West Virginia American that removed
the MCHM eventually are eventually going to desorb all of that
material,” environmental engineer and chemist Dayton Carpenter
told the Rotary Club of Charleston. “And sure enough as they’re
doing the testing right now, it is desorbing. It’s going out into
the system at very low concentration. But to me, we’re talking
Test results made public in March showed that trace amounts of
MCHM were detected in treated water coming from the facility, but
spokeswoman Laura Jordan told the Gazette that “wasn’t
unexpected,” in an earlier report.
The water company started changing its filters two weeks ago.
Jordan said Monday that two have been completely replaced and
samples taken from those filters show no trace of Crude MCHM --
the coal processing chemical that leaked into the Elk River in
January, contaminating the drinking water for 300,000 Kanawha
Carpenter is president of Carpenter Treatment Solutions, LLC, and
has designed water treatment facilities for 35 years. He is also a
licensed remediation specialist for hazardous waste remediation at
Carpenter wrote multiple newspaper editorials during the water
crisis, because he “couldn’t sit on the sidelines,” he said.
He said one of his concerns in the days following the leak was the
lack of information about Crude MCHM.
“It seemed to be a pretty benign material until you start smelling
licorice in your tap. And then your life changes,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said his first instinct would have been to close intakes
at the treatment plant. But, West Virginia American Water’s
distribution, which includes many systems Carpenter designed,
wouldn’t allow for that, he said.
“I didn’t understand that there’s 179 pressure zones in the nine
counties that West Virginia American Water operates in,” Carpenter
said. “Most systems I know, five to seven. Maybe 10 to 12.
One-hundred-and-seventy-nine is just astronomical to me.”
Carpenter said he was told by the company the much of the region
would have been without water within eight hours had the intakes
West Virginia American Water officials repeatedly defended keeping
the plant’s intakes open during and after the leak, citing the
need to use water for flushing toilets and fire protection and
describing a system that was short on water because of people
leaving their taps dripping during the intense cold in January.
Carpenter criticized the Centers for Disease Control’s
recommendation that water was consumable once chemical levels
reached 1 part-per-million, a number he called “foolish.”
“It was a true statement that it was shaky math to say that 1 ppm
was safe,” Carpenter said. “You really had only one data point for
rats that had really no correlation with humans.”
Material Safety Data Sheets from several manufacturers listed
little to no health data on the chemical, aside from an Eastman
Chemical Co. study that gave an estimate of how much Crude MCHM
killed half of the lab rats exposed to it. Eastman is one
manufacturer of the chemical.
Outside public health and toxicology experts questioned federal
officials’ 1 ppm standard, because of this lack of information.
Carpenter said the nose can detect Crude MCHM at levels as low as
10 and 20 parts-per-billion.
“It’ll take 20 years or more to get epidemiological studies that
can tell us whether MCHM will have any effects to the human body,”
Carpenter said. “Why wouldn’t you use that factor? If you can
smell it, don’t drink it.”
Carpenter gave the Legislature a B+ for its passage of the
chemical tank bill that regulates above-ground chemical storage
tanks like the ones at Freedom Industries -- the company
responsible for the MCHM leak. Carpenter said he made several
recommendations for the legislation, which was signed into law
“I believe strongly in tank inspection, and we need an early
warning system,” Carpenter said.
While Carpenter said moving the water company’s current intake
upstream on the Kanawha — a $15 million to $20 million project —
was “questionable,” he said having about 120 million gallons of
treated water reserves is important should there be another leak.
“That gives us three to five days to handle it,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter approved of the water company’s filter change-out, but
said he still smells in his home the licorice scent associated
with the chemical. “We’re going to wait it out,” Carpenter said of
his drinking the water.
Reach Rachel Molenda at email@example.com or
- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140414/GZ01/140419649/1130#sthash.2hyrkVT3.dpuf