WVDEP: White Foam Substance on Elk River Not Harmful

By: Anna Baxter, Steffany Puckett, Shannon Houser Email
By: Anna Baxter, Steffany Puckett, Shannon Houser Email

UPDATE 3/28/14 @ 5:25 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says a second set of water samples from the Elk River show the white foam substance is not harmful.

The foam substance was spotted on the Elk River Thursday morning.

WVDEP Officials released a statement Friday evening saying a second set of samples tested Friday were negative for any harmful materials.

They say those results, along with results from earlier negative tests, support the theory that the foam was a natural occurrence related to the decay of plants and other organic materials.

The tests were conducted by the National Guard Civil Support Team and ALS Environmental for the WVDEP.

WVDEP inspectors collected the samples on Thursday after being alerted to the material’s presence by Kanawha County emergency officials.

The WVDEP inspectors spent the bulk of the day along the river and its tributaries Thursday to make sure there was no evidence that the foam was the result of a spill.



UPDATE 3/27/14 @ 4:05 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kanawha County Emergency Management says the white material floating along the Elk River is completely normal and can be seen on the river every day.

WSAZ.com first contacted Kanawha County emergency officials just after 8 a.m. Thursday after receiving calls from several people who saw the white material in the river.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection sent inspectors to the site immediately to figure out what the material is and where it's coming from.

Kanawha County Emergency Management officials tell WSAZ.com the potential cause of the material are that water hasn't flowed down the river; like in front of a dam.

Emergency Management officials say it could also be oxygen in the water creating bubbles and foam, or sewage runoff from someone's home.

Officials say people are noticing the foam now because of a heightened awareness of what's on the river after the chemical leak. Kanawha County Commission Planning Director, Dave Armstrong, says, "Had this been prior to January 9th, no one would have looked at this twice and called it in and thought it was an issue, however, the awareness is there now."

Samples were taken to be tested which is protocol. Four samples were taken from different locations.

According to a news release, the results of the tests indicate no changes to water source water quality and no characteristics outside of typical water quality parameters.

“After receiving notification of a foam on the Elk River this morning, and with the health and safety of our customers as our number one priority, we made the decision to shut down the plant’s raw water intake pumps for approximately two hours until more information could be gathered,” said West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre. “System conditions today allowed for the plant to maintain adequate water storage during this brief time, which was a very different circumstance than on the day of the Freedom Industries spill. At that time, the decision to maintain water service to customers for firefighting and basic sanitation was the best decision for the communities we serve.”

The plant resumed operations after water quality staff consulted with the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health.



UPDATE 3/27/14 @ 11:50 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Inspectors are still investigating a white material that is floating along the Elk River.

WSAZ.com first contacted Kanawha County emergency officials just after 8 a.m. Thursday after receiving calls from several people who saw the white material in the river.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection sent inspectors to the site immediately to figure out what the material is and where it's coming from.

Right now, DEP officials are describing the material as something similar to foam. Tom Aluise with the WVDEP says the source appears to be upstream of the Freedom Industries spill site.

According to a news release, West Virginia American Water was notified by the WVDEP about 8:40 a.m. of a white foam reported along the Elk River.

"Water quality staff from our Kanawha Valley water treatment plant have investigated the Elk River upstream of the treatment plant intake and have found a white colored foam intermittently along the banks of the Elk River from Coonskin to Queen Shoals, as well as along Big Sandy Creek in the Clendenin area," Laura Jordan, spokesperson for West Virginia American Water released in a statement. "The appearance indicates that it may be a naturally occurring foam. However, our staff are taking samples to the Charleston plant for pH, turbidity and conductivity analysis, and to our Huntington plant for further organics analysis."

Jordan says the water company remains in contact with WVDEP and the WV Bureau for Public Health regarding this situation.

We have a crew at the river. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/27/14 @ 8:54 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Inspectors with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are investigating reports of a white material in the Elk River in Charleston.

The white material is floating on top of the water. The bulk of the material can be seen on the Westmoreland side of the Elk River.

A spokesperson with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection tells WSAZ.com inspectors are on site trying to figure out what the material is and where it's coming from.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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