UPDATE: MCHM Testing Ordered in Ona Following Boil Water Advisory

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 3/19/14 @ 11:50 p.m.
ONA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia American Water is flushing the water system in Ona because many customers say their water smells like licorice -- the smell that comes from the chemical MCHM.

It's a familiar smell that doesn't seem to be going away.

Allen Bibbee said he was shocked to smell it in his own sink.

"I went to wash my hands, and the smell about knocked me over," Bibbee said. I told my wife, 'There's something going on with the water. We've got that chemical. It's very distinctive."

His family lives in Ona, where a "do not use" ban was never in place during the January water crisis, but now they're not so sure.

"I mean, I'm no scientist, but it just doesn't seem safe," he said.

It started when two water main breaks shut off water to customers in Ona. West Virginia American Water officials say instead of forcing customers to have low water pressure or even go without, they pumped water in from a line in the Kanawha Valley. Yet, that's exactly what these customers don't understand

"There's no sense in them opening up that one line. They could have gotten the water from somewhere else, not the Kanawha," water customer Sasha Varney said.

West Virginia American Water officials say test results from that connecting line have not shown any detectable levels of MCHM, but are flushing all lines in Ona to put minds at ease.

Water officials also say there have not been detectable levels of the chemical in that area so far, but they did take a sample of the water there to be sure everything is still chemical free.

The line supplying Ona with water has since been shut off, and the boil water advisory has been lifted.

UPDATE 3/19/14 @ 5 p.m.
ONA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia American Water has announced they will conduct sampling and testing for the chemical MCHM in the Ona area.

The decision comes after a landslip early Monday morning, that caused two water main breaks along Water Street in Barboursville.

WVAW says the breaks drained the Barboursville storage tank.

"Following normal response procedures crews opened a 16-inch interconnection between the Huntington and Kanawha Valley systems near Culloden to continue to provide water to approximately 1,500 customers in the Ona area while the Barboursville tank was recovering," said Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water.

Since Tuesday afternoon, the company says they have received several dozen complaints in the Ona area related to water odor, which they say is not uncommon when the flow is reversed in a main line. Some callers have reported a licorice odor, the smell associated with MCHM.

"Recent expert reports note that the odor threshold for this chemical is very low at 0.15 ppb,” stated McIntyre. “However, we recognize that the presence of the odor is not acceptable to our customers and we are taking the action to test the water in order to provide our customers with assurance that water in the distribution system is below the CDC protective level as well as help remove the odor completely.”

The company says over the past two months, after the MCHM spill at Freedom Industries in Kanawha County, the hydrant closest to the valve that opens and closes this interconnection in the Ona area was flushed and tested for MCHM. Additional flushing occurred multiple times along this main transmission line in the area near the interconnection.

WVAW officials say now that both main breaks have been repaired, the interconnection between the two systems havs been closed.

The company says they will continue to flush the area as needed.

WVAW says they will post the results of the testing on their website. The link to the site is posted on the right hand side of the page.

A boil water advisory was issued for residents while crews worked on the repairs. The advisory was lifted Wednesday morning.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

UPDATE 3/19/14 @ 8 a.m.
BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) – West Virginia American Water has lifted a precautionary boil water advisory for customers in Barboursville area.

The advisory was issued on Monday March 17th for Customers in parts of Huntington, Ona and Pea Ridge immediately surrounding Barboursville, following a water main break, which drained the Barboursville water storage tank, which crews have repaired.

Results of water quality testing have confirmed that water quality meets drinking water standards. Therefore, there is no further need to boil water prior to consumption.

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Water flushing happened Tuesday in the Ona area after some customers reported a licorice smell, a West Virginia American Water spokeswoman said.

On Tuesday, WSAZ.com received calls from some Ona residents who said they noticed the smell.

A similar odor was reported by many people after the Jan. 9 MCHM chemical spill in Charleston that affected more than 300,000 residents in parts of nine counties.

According to the WVAW spokeswoman, a landslip caused two water main breaks in the Barboursville area on Monday morning. For that reason, WVAW opened up a system between the Kanawha Valley and the Cabell County area to keep water flowing to as many customers as possible.

While the Barboursville breaks have been repaired, a boil water advisory remains in effect for those in the Barboursville area with low water pressure. WVAW hopes to lift that advisory sometime soon.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

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