CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The union representing Huntington workers at West Virginia American Water Co. is worried that the company's leaky pipes may have allowed water contaminated by the Elk River chemical spill to seep into the ground.
D. Michael Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America, wrote to the state Public Service Commission on Thursday to point out West Virginia American's high rate of "unaccounted for water."
Unaccounted-for water is water that leaves a treatment plant, but never passes through a customer's meter, meaning it is never sold. It disappears somewhere in a maze of leaky pipes.
Langford points out that for the Kanawha Valley District, the company's unaccounted for rate over a 12-month rolling period was more than 37 percent, as of June 2013.
"Our immediate concern," Langford writes, "is that a significant amount of the contaminated water pumped through the system will have leaked into the ground. The UWUA does not know whether this presents a public health concern, but believes that the matter warrants investigation."
In 2012, West Virginia American could not account for more than 28 percent of the water it pumped, about 5 billion gallons, according to its most recent annual report on file with the PSC.
That number is far above the 15 percent that the PSC considers acceptable, and it is also above the statewide rate of unaccounted for water, which was about 25 percent in 2012.
West Virginia American serves 288 communities in 15 West Virginia Counties, according to its PSC filing. It has more than 3,300 miles of main water line.