CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Reliable, safe water service is something many households take for granted. But this month, state regulators found three small water districts in the upper Kanawha Valley “seriously impaired” when it comes to their ability to service customers.
One of those water districts is set for take over while two others were ordered to seek help to get back to where they need to be. The problems have impacted more than just residential customers.
Public Service Commission Chairman Charlotte Lane said these types of cases are among the most important reviewed by the PSC.
“Nothing can be more important to state residents than their ability to obtain safe and clean drinking water,” Lane said in a news release.
This month the PSC ordered West Virginia American Water to take over Armstrong Public Service District, calling it a “failed utility”. In other rulings, the Commission ordered Gauley River Public Service District and Kanawha Falls Public Service District to get financial, managerial and technical support from West Virginia American Water in an effort to help get the smaller utilities to the level they need to be.
“Occasionally it gets shut off because they have leaks around,” said Gauley River PSD customer Armand Brouillard. “I understand problems happen sometimes. It is kind of inconvenient when you can’t take a shower in the morning, but you know you do what you’ve got to do.”
Gauley River PSD is based in the community of Swiss in Nicholas County, serving 1,200 customers and all of Mount Olive Correctional Complex. Gauley River PSD purchases water from Kanawha Falls PSD.
According to the PSC, high-profile problems providing adequate water service at Mount Olive is what initially sparked an investigation.
According to the Commission, from late December 2021 to February 2022 water service at Mount Olive was lost several times with some outages lasting several days. The PSC says the loss of service was a result of demand exceeding the available water supply for days to weeks. The latest order calls for Gauley River PSD and Kanawha Falls PSD to work with West Virginia American Water to improve service, not just at Mount Olive but for all customers.
“You know it affects everybody, everybody here in the area,” Brouillard said. He and other customers are hopeful improvements will come without a higher bill. “I guess it just depends, do you want to spend more money? I don’t know. We’ll just have to see what happens. Unfortunately, there is not a choice, you want water there is only one company to buy it from.”
We reached out to West Virginia American Water for comment on these situations. They tell us the parties will have a lot to discuss over the next 30 days. After that West Virginia American Water will have more information to share with customers in the impacted areas.
You can read the entire orders for the Public Service Commission HERE. Click on “Case Information” and access cases 22-0456-PWD-DU, 22-0631-PWD-DU, 22-0911-PWD-DU.