Last week West Virginia American Water Company released a proposal that outlined details of a reserve water supply plant which will be located at Coonskin Park in Charleston. The Coonskin Reserve Water Supply project will cost between $25 and $30 million dollars.
The reservoir will be located in a small protected watershed which will include a 65 acre lake which can be used for recreational boating and fishing. It will contain about 800 million gallons of groundwater which would provide a 16 to 28 day reserve supply. In a sense, it’s a sigh of relief for those still feeling the effects from the Jan. 9 Chemical Spill, which affected 300,000 people. But many questions come to mind from this proposal, like what other Above Ground Storage Tanks or Underground Storage Tanks exist along the Elk River that can cause another crisis? Are the current remedial efforts at the Freedom Industry site enough to give WVAM customers assurance that no remnants of MCHM or PPH still exist?
With the installation of the reservoir, current residential WVAM customers would experience a monthly water cost increase of about $1.35. The project will be developed as a Public-Private Partnership project eligible for low interest rate financing and grant assistance. The partnerships will include WVAM, Kanawha Regional Development Authority and Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission overseeing recreational uses associated with its uses.
Surprisingly, neither WVAM nor Freedom Industries released any soil data or surveys to the public in regards to the chemical acting as a leachate or information on how permeable the surface is at Freedom Industries. It’s possible that MCHM can still be present at the site for and will be for years. The National Toxicology Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently was approved to conduct the studies on laboratory animals to learn more about the impact of the leaked chemicals on human health. These studies also involve the use of computer modeling, which is estimated to cost from $750,000 to $1.2 million. Seemingly, these fall under the category of Feasibility Studies and Remedial Investigations, which are the initial steps needed towards a long and complex process of declaring the former tank farm as a Superfund site.
It’s a move that’s in the direction. But Barlow Drive is the location where Freedom Industries was located. Long-term protectiveness will need to be ensured and guaranteed. And that’s something the government has not been able to provide to the 300,000 people affected by the Water Crisis.