Plans Help Safeguard Area Water
Officials: MUB, Kingwood rules updated in ’11
Morgantown Dominion Post
26 January 2014
By David Beard
The Freedom Industries chemical spill, which contaminated the
water supply for 300,000 Kanawha Valley residents, stirred
questions about the safety of water supplies in the state.
Evan Hansen, president of Morgantown-based Downstream Strategies,
told legislators this past week about one available means of
protection: Source Water Protection Plans.
These plans emerge from federally mandated Source Water Protection
Reports (SWARs) for 342 public water systems statewide. The
Dominion Post spoke to officials at two local systems — Morgantown
Utility Board (MUB) and Kingwood Water Works — about their plans.
Conversations took place by phone and email.
SWARs emerged from the federal 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act.
The state Bureau for Public Health said that the program is
designed to evaluate the vulnerability of public drinking water
systems to possible sources of contamination, and encourages
states to work with these systems in developing protection and
Protection plans, developed with input from area emergency
planning committees, should include contingency plans, alternative
water sources and management plans to protect sources.
Systems of all sizes have SWARs — from West Virginia American
Water, the state’s largest and the one that suffered from the
Freedom spill, to tiny public service districts across rural West
Monongalia County has just one SWAR, for MUB. Preston has 12 — for
Kingwood Water Works; and systems for Arthurdale, Bruceton Mills,
Masontown, Rowlesburg, Big Sandy, Terra Alta, Tunnelton, Newburg,
Alpine Lake and county PSDs 1 and 4.
Marion County has four: Fairmont, Fairview, Mannington and
Each SWAR includes susceptibility ratings for contamination of the
water sources. MUB’s and Kingwood’s both rate “high.”
MUB’s watershed covers 2,575 square miles, principally the
Monongahela River, with a “zone of critical concern” (a corridor
along streams meriting extra attention because of its proximity to
the water intake) of 6,070 acres. The watershed has 3,609 stream
The zone of concern has 55 “potential significant contaminant
sources”: 34 industrial, 12 commercial, six municipal, two
residential and one agricultural. The various industries and the
gas wells at the Morgantown Industrial Park, for example, are
situated just upstream of MUB’s intake.
Kingwood’s primary water source is the Cheat River. The watershed
covers 1,002 square miles — 1,249 stream miles — with a concern
zone of 6,376 acres. The zone contains 36 potential contaminant
sources: 31 industrial, two commercial and three municipal.
MUB prepared a SWAR in 2003 and updated it in 2011. The 2011
plan is 68 pages and wraps in such new phenomena, such as
horizontal gas wells.
MUB General Manager Tim Ball wrote, “MUB’s plan specifies
coordination with local emergency response personnel if an event
occurs. As a lesson of the Charleston event, we recognize that
more thorough advanced planning, training, rehearsal and
coordination with the appropriate local and state agencies will
provide improved preparation and response, and we have begun
planning to accomplish that.”
The key element of the plan, he said, is to switch to the
alternative raw water supply — from the Mon River to Cobun Creek
reservoir — to avoid contamination in the source water.
Ball said MUB is now beginning to update the status and location
of such facilities, identifying their chemical inventories, and
obtaining their spill prevention and response plans.
Developing plans costs money, and West Virginia Rural Water
Association Executive Director Amy Swann told legislators this
past week that many small utilities that barely bring in enough
money to pay their bills will hardly be able to afford the costs
of new plans required in the Aboveground Storage Tank Water
Resources Protection Act now working its way through the
Robert McVicker, chief operator for Kingwood Water Works, had his
contingency plan sitting next to him when The Dominion Post
reached him at the water plant. “We keep an eye on what’s going on
Like MUB, Kingwood prepared a plan in 2003 and updated it in 2011,
McVicker said a number of groups contributed to developing the
plan, including the Preston Office of Emergency Management, Camp
Dawson and Friends of the Cheat.
It was done at no cost to Kingwood; Grants covered it, including
one through the bureau. It was done by the Charleston engineering
firm Tetra Tech.
McVicker said he’s baffled by the apparent complacence that
allowed the Elk River incident to happen. He goes upstream to
monitor industrial activities along his water sources.
“Nothing in this world happens without water,” he said. “Water’s a
very valuable commodity. Stupid things like this have to happen”
to open people’s eyes.