The 2014 chemical spill and water contamination along the Elk River in Kanawha County changed everything with regard to extra safeguarding our public water systems. The good that comes of that terrible event, is a closer monitoring awareness and planning for every “what if” scenario.
To fulfill the requirements of Senate Bill 373 and Legislative Rule 64 CSR 3, the Town of Marlinton has participated in a study to evaluate its existing contingency planning and feasibility of source water alternatives. This contingency planning study documents the results of the study and provides information about the utility’s ability to prevent contaminants from entering the water system and a plan to respond to an emergency, if necessary.
The goal of contingency planning is to identify and document how the utility will prepare for and respond to any drinking water shortages or emergencies that may occur, due to short and/or long water interruption or incidents of spill or contamination. Our plan is to do everything we can to protect the intake, treatment plant and distribution system from any contamination. The Town of Marlinton is reviewing its ability to use alternative sources, minimize water loss, meet future demands and operate during power outages.
The town’s biggest threat could be an overturned tanker truck in Knapps Creek. Shutting the water plant down and isolating or diverting any possible contaminant from the intake would be the first step in the event of an emergency. One commonly used method of diverting contaminants from an intake is establishing booms around the intake. This can be effective, but only for contaminants that float on the surface of water. Alternatively, utilities can choose to pump floating contaminants from the water or chemically neutralize the contaminant before it enters the treatment facility.
The amount of time an intake can remain closed depends on the water infrastructure and certain other variables. For instance, even the day of the week would be a factor. One thing is for sure, the longer an intake remains closed, the better.
Raw and treated water storage capacity in the event of an emergency also becomes extremely important. Storage capacity can directly determine how effectively a water system can respond to a contamination event, and how long an intake can remain closed. Information regarding the water shortage response capability is a work in progress. A required meeting is scheduled for March 2.
Statewide initiatives for emergency response, including source water related incidents, are being develop- ed. These include the West Virginia WaterWastewater Agency Response Network (WV WARN) wvwarn.org; and the Rural Water Association Emergency Response Team, wvrwa. org