LATEST: WV DEP says foam in Elk River not harmful after tests - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

LATEST: WV DEP says foam in Elk River not dangerous after two rounds of water sample tests

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CHARLESTON, WV -

UPDATE:

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV Dep) say a second set of water samples taken from the Elk River in Charleston, WV confirm the "white foam" like substance was not harmful. 

According to a news release issued by WV Dep, the white foam was a result of the decay of plant and other organic materials. And this generally happens in nature.

WV Dep collected water samples from the Elk River on Thursday, March 27 after Kanawha County Emergency personnel notified them and the media of the "white foam" like substance.

Inspectors from WV Dep spent a majority of their day along the Elk River to ensure the "white foam" like substance was cleared from the area.

_____

UPDATE:  10:46 p.m. March 27:

West Virginia American Water released a statement Thursday night, which reads "testing results from foam samples taken earlier today in the Elk River are complete and indicate no changes to source water quality and no characteristics outside of typical water quality parameters."

According to WVAW President Jeff McIntyre, "After receiving notification of a foam on the Elk River this morning, and with the health and safety of our customers as our number one priority, we made the decision to shut down the plant's raw water intake pumps for approximately two hours until more information could be gathered."

McIntyre went on to say that "system conditions today allowed for the plant to maintain adequate water storage during this brief time, which was a very different circumstance than on the day of the Freedom Industries spill. At that time, the decision to maintain water service to customers for firefighting and basic sanitation was the best decision for the communities we serve."

UPDATE, 6:30 p.m., March 27:

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) released a statement saying that no harmful substances or unnatural odors were detected after samples were taken from the Elk River and tested Thursday after a report of a white foam being found along the banks of the Elk River from Coonskin to Queen Shoals, as well as along Big Sandy Creek in the Clendenin area.

Results from a second test are expected to be made available Friday, March 28.

According to WVDEP, no evidence has been found saying the foam is the result of a spill.

UPDATE, 5:36 p.m., March 27:

West Virginia American Water issued a statement saying initial testing results from a foam sample that was taken Thursday, March 27, from the Elk River indicated no changes to the source's water quality, as well as no characteristics outside of typical water quality parameters.

Further results are expected Thursday evening.

The statement reads that "throughout the day, water quality staff observed no changes in water quality or operations at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant. Company officials remained in contact with WVDEP and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH) regarding this situation."

The statement goes on to say that "upon notification from WVDEP about the reported foam, West Virginia American Water shut down the plant's raw water intake pumps for approximately two hours until more information could be gathered. The plant continued to pump treated water out of its clearwell, as system conditions allowed for the plant to maintain adequate system storage during this time. The plant resumed normal operations after water quality staff consulted with the WVBPH, as well as confirmed that no foam or film was present on the river near the plant intake."

UPDATE, 12:32 p.m., March 27:

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a statement saying the white foam substance was seen floating on the Elk River upstream of West Virginia American Water's Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.

"The source also appears to be upstream of the Freedom Industries spill site," the statement reads. "Water plant officials have been notified and remain in contact with WVDEP personnel.

"WVDEP inspectors are still trying to identify the foam. More information will be released as soon as it becomes available."

UPDATE, 11:48 a.m., March 27:

West Virginia American Water Spokeswoman Laura Jordan issued an update just before noon March 27 to say the foam appears to be a "naturally occurring foam."

The statement says the company was notified of white foam reported along the Elk River at about 8:40 a.m. by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

"We have remained in contact with WVDEP and the WV Bureau for Public Health regarding this situation," the statement reads. "Water quality staff from our Kanawha Valley water treatment plant have investigated the Elk River upstream of the treatment plant intake and have found a white-colored foam intermittently along the banks of the Elk River from Coonskin to Queen Shoals, as well as along Big Sandy Creek in the Clendenin area.

WVAW staff members are taking samples of the foam to the company's Charleston plant to test its pH, turbidity and conductivity and then to the company's Huntington plant "for further organics analysis," according to the statement. 

Jordan further clarified that naturally occurring foam can develop in bodies of water due to changes in water surface tension and the physical introduction of air.

"That observance comes from the experience of our water quality staff," Jordan said in an email. "I wouldn't say that we deal with it often.

"However, because of the unknowns, we have taken samples for testing."

Original story, 10:35 a.m. March 27:

The WV Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a white substance seen floating in the Elk River near the Freedom Industry site March 27. 

DEP Chief Communications Officer Tom Louise said DEP inspectors are investigating the foam at the site. Louise said investigators are trying to determine what the foam is as well as where it's coming from.

Louise said the foam appears to be coming "upstream" from the Jan. 9 chemical spill at Freedom Industries.

Kanawha County Emergency Management Director C.W. Sigman said his office gets calls of "white foam" often.

Sigman said in this instance it could be coming from the waste treatment plant, but as far as the inspectors on the scene know it is not coming from the Freedom Industries spill site. It is, however, near the site.

The substance first appeared upstream of the site, he said, and West Virginia American Water was notified.

Emergency management officials notified the DEP and local fire departments, who arrived on scene to find the substance.

Sigman said the stream is not flowing very strongly today, which could help the investigation to determine the source.