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Water company should keep filing reports, advocate says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia American Water should have to keep filing quarterly reports with the state Public Service Commission because of this month's chemical leak that contaminated water for about 300,000 West Virginians, the PSC's Consumer Advocate Division argued in a motion filed Wednesday.

A 2011 investigation required the water company to file the quarterly reports until the end of 2013.

"Clearly under these circumstances we believe it must continue," said Consumer Advocate Division Director Jackie Roberts.

The three members of the Public Service Commission would decide if the water company must keep filing the reports.

The reports were originally required as part of a 2011 case in which the Utility Workers Union of American Local 537 filed a grievance with the PSC, alleging that the water company's proposed layoffs would compromise its ability to provide safe water to its customers.

According to the latest report, filed Dec. 30, 2013, the water company had a total of 278 employees and 11 vacant positions, for a total of 289 potential employees.

"This compares with a total headcount of 298 for the same time period in 2012 and represents a reduction of 20 employees. The Commission-approved, minimum headcount is 289 employees," PSC records show.

The latest report also said West Virginia American Water was failing to meet two mandates from the PSC: one to do with replacing meters, and one with valve operations.

The Dec. 20 report shows West Virginia American Water failed to meet several mandates.

During a nine-month period ending September 2013, a mandate required the water company to test a total of 950 meters of its system's pipe works. However, West Virginia American Water only tested 229 meters of its system.

That earned the water company a 24.11 percent compliance rate.

The Commission also mandated two criteria for the water company to replace a certain amount of meters in its system. One mandate is based on the service life of the system, 15 years. The second mandate is based on the volume measured in the system.

Based on the number of meters actually replaced, the water company earned a year-to-date compliance rate of 90.59 percent but based on the system volume criteria the company earned a mere 1.4 percent compliance rate.

"Additional resources may be needed to realize the mandated level of meter replacement and testing," PSC records state. 

The report also shows the West Virginia American Water failed to meet its own standard for its system's target valve operations.

"Valve operations are an important part of any maintenance program and the data shows the Company is currently failing to meet their own targets in this respect," PSC records state.

"I am sure many issues that are within the Commission's jurisdiction will come before them and we will be actively involved in that process," Roberts said.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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