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Chlorine Scare Causes Concern About City’s Water Supply

By Staff | Aug 31, 2016

SISTERSVILLE – Until other arrangements can be made, the city still draws in water from the Ohio River.

Saturday’s chlorine gas incident in New Martinsville underscores the city’s need to find another water source and continue its plan to upgrade related infrastructure.

Last week, City Hall signed off on a plan to deal with a potentially compromised water supply. City Recorder Chad Edwards said if something happens to happen, the city is able to shut off its connection to the Ohio River. The city has enough water held in reserve to supply residents for three days. Edwards said when last fall’s toxi blue algae scare occurred, the city temporarily disconnected from the Ohio River.

Mayor Bill Rice and Edwards took water samples for testing to Columbus, Ohio. When they received the green light on the sample’s safety, the connection was restored.

Soon after the chlorine gas leak was reported Saturday, City Hall contacted contacted the proper authorities to determine if there was any threat to the city’s water supply from the Ohio River. Since the chemicals were released into the air as opposed to directly into the river, the city’s water supply was unaffected.

“The chlorine incident is a reminder that we must continue our progress of selecting a safe and dependable source of water,” said Councilman Brandon Chadock. “I anticipate that the decisions the city makes toward that goal will continue to be based on vetted research and always in the best interest of the community.”

Councilman Alex King added, “When I heard about the chlorine, Sistersville’s water supply was my first concern. Although the spill wasn’t in the river and didn’t reach us, the city was very proactive in getting the correct information to the public. That being said, we can’t wait until luck runs out. We are continuing our dedication to water improvements. It’s something that’s been discussed for years, and we have a council that’s working very well together. I’m sure the discussion will turn into action.”

Sistersville is among the last cities in the state to rely on the river for its water supply. Though the city’s Water Board is studying various proposals, City Hall has explored plans to connect the city’s water system to the Tyler County Public Service District.

Rice said if the city were to connect with Tyler PSD, Heintzman said, it would have to shore up its water loss rate estimated to be between 30 percent and 50 percent. High water loss rates like this are reasonably common through small to medium sized water systems across the state. The state’s Public Service Commission’s (PSC) standards require that utilities’ “unaccounted for” lost water is no more than 15 percent of the total water pumped.

“Rural water is coming back on the 8th of next month to search for leaks,” Rice said. “Plus, we are looking at another alternative, but not much info on that yet. But we are still looking and going in with Friendly if we can get the water loss down. I think that the real thing people need to focus on is not just when a situation happens. We must work on our infrastructure more now than ever. We are in the process of taking the radio read meters to council in Septembers council meeting.”