PADEN CITY — State public health officials have amended an order related to the Paden City water crisis, reminding residents and city officials that the city’s water still cannot be consumed or used because it still is contaminated with tetrachloroethylene, aka PCE.
That amended order also sets several guidelines the city must meet before the state allows the water to be used again.
A copy of the order – issued by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau of Public Health and Office of Environmental Health Services – was posted on social media by Mayor Steve Kastigar on Wednesday morning.
The city’s air stripper, which is designed to remove PCE from the water, went offline in July after a power outage at the plant caused a valve to malfunction. This allowed the tainted water to enter the city’s water system including people’s homes and businesses. A water sample taken after that malfunction showed the water had PCE levels six times higher than what is allowed by national standards. The state Office of Environmental Health Services issued a do not use order Aug. 16.
The new amended order, dated Aug. 26, notes the city must continue to provide an alternative source of drinking water until the state has lifted the “do not consume” notice.
The next water distributions for residents are from 3-6 p.m. today and from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Paden City Fire Hall.
While the water still cannot be used, Kastigar said he believed it could now also be used for bathing and washing clothes again.
However, Jessica Holstein, interim director of Communications for the West Virginia DHHR, said the original order still stands; people should not drink or use the water.
“The original ‘Do Not Consume/Use’ notice has not changed and remains in effect,” Holstein said Wednesday. “Showering and washing are not recommended due to the fact that PCE easily releases from water into air, particularly when hot water is used.
“These activities may increase exposure.”
Kastigar said the city has had some results start to come in on Tuesday from the lab in Columbus, Ohio, but he is “reluctant” to release that information. He said the information was shared with the DHHR.
“We can’t do anything without their say-so at this point,” he said. “We will update the order as we get numbers to them.”
State health officials are requiring three consecutive tests of non-detectable PCE.
“Testing continues to be performed to ensure that drinking water is within regulatory limits for PCE,” Holstein said. “Additional samples were taken today after targeted flushing of the distribution system.”
According to the OEHS’ amended order, before the order can be lifted, the city must get written approval from the Office of Environmental Health Services before doing so. Meanwhile, Kastigar said the city started flushing its water distribution lines again today. They also plan to do more hydrant flushing.
Kastigar believes things are moving in the right direction although the water still cannot be used.
“We knew it was going to take awhile. We don’t have any control over it. The bureaucracy of the processes are stifling sometimes, but we do what we got to do to get life back to normal for our residents,” Kastigar said.
The amended order notes the city must provide OEHS with a water system flushing plan and home flushing recommendations for residents.
“Flushing recommendations should also include recommendations for flushing in-home water filters, ice makers and hot water tanks,” according to the order. “Residents should also be advised to replace any water filters currently in use (refrigerator, sink mounted or pitcher filter).
“OEHS will assist in communications to consumers about flushing and filter replacement. Communications shall be reviewed and approved by the OEHS office director prior to distribution.”
The order also notes the city’s sampling plan should include taking water from the treatment plant’s effluent, from the distribution system, including from residential taps to test for PCE. This sample plan must also be approved by the OEHS.
“Paden City Water shall within 30 calendar days of receipt of the amended order (dated Aug. 26), submit an emergency response plan to the OEHS office director for review and approval that demonstrates the steps the water system will take should a future failure of treatment occur,” the order notes.
The city is also being required to submit copies of the operation and maintenance logs for the plant’s air stripper since its installation to the present. The city is now also required to give copies of those logs each month.
The city is now also required to test for PCE on a weekly basis.
“Paden City Water, commencing immediately, shall sample PCE at the entry point to the distribution system at least every seven calendar days until the primacy agency has determined the public water system is reliably and consistently below the maximum contaminant level for PCE,” the order states.
“All samples must be analyzed by a drinking water laboratory certified by the West Virginia Office of Laboratory Services. Samples must be submitted within five calendar days of receipt of results by the public water system.”
The city is also being required to install an “hour meter” on the air stripper to ensure it is operational.
“This meter can be a simple (non-resettable) hour meter that can be used on HVAC equipment to record runtime and installed parallel to the air stripper’s blower to log performance,” the order notes.
The chemical also was found in Paden City’s groundwater in 2010 and 2017. And in January 2020, the city’s water authority told residents that PCE was found in the water at levels three times the federal limit. The air stripper plant went into operation in May 2020.
The origin of the PCE is believed to be from the site of a former dry cleaners business where the chemical was used and got into the city’s underground aquifer, which is its water source.