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After water crisis, sanitary board customers could see lower bills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston residents won't get a credit from the Charleston Sanitary Board for flushing their systems, according to general manager Larry Roller.

"We're going to bill just as we ordinarily bill," Roller said Monday. "Nobody's going to get an extra charge and nobody's going to get a decrease. We're just going to treat it like an ordinary flow."

West Virginia American Water customers in some parts of Charleston were instructed Monday to start flushing their home pipes, hot water tanks and appliances after last week's chemical spill that left about 300,000 people in the Kanawha Valley without water.

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said customers affected by the "do-not-use" advisory would receive a 1,000-gallon credit so they wouldn't have to pay for the water used to flush the coal-scrubbing chemical out of their pipes.

Roller said even without a credit, customers are likely to see lower bills anyway, because they haven't used as much water after the water company's "do not use" advisory. Customers were advised to use water only to flush toilets and put out fires.

The company can't issue credits to customers, because the bonds it uses to fund projects don't allow for it, he said.

The sanitary board's rate for 1,000 gallons of water is just under $12, and there is a 2,000-gallon minimum for ratepayers. Rates are based on an average usage of about 4,500 gallons per month, Roller said.

"That's not a big issue," Roller said of the lost revenue. "It is from the standpoint of our operations, but people without water ... that's a real hassle. It just goes to show people how valuable water is."

The board is worried, however, about backups that might occur due to flushing. Since much of Charleston's sewage system is combined with storm water, Roller said they are anticipating customer calls for backup issues.

"If you get several people doing it at the same time, it can overwhelm the pipes," said operations manager Tim Haapala.

The sanitary board has been in touch with the water company through the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"There isn't much we can do except wait for it to get here," Roller said.

Roller added the sanitary board's system should be able to treat flushed water. They are providing the DEP with samples at both inflow and outflows, he said.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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