West Virginia chemical spill: PSC asked to extend water company's reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division wants the agency to continue requiring West Virginia American Water to submit quarterly reports on the quality of its service.

A 2011 order issued by the PSC requires the company to submit the reports about its operations, with the final one covering the fourth quarter of 2013. The reports include information about water line breaks, staffing levels, average response times to repair leaks and other service-related metrics.

The Consumer Advocate Division filed a motion with the PSC on Wednesday asking it to continue requiring the quarterly reports until further notice. The motion cites a Jan. 9 chemical spill in the Elk River from a Freedom Industries facility less than 2 miles upstream from the water company's Charleston treatment plant. The spill contaminated the water supply of 300,000 residents in nine counties.

Jackie Roberts, the Consumer Advocate Division's director, said her agency's concern is not the spill itself but the water company's response.

"In light of the situation we're dealing with here at their plant, we thought that they should continue to file those reports," Roberts said.

A West Virginia American Water spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The PSC's 2011 order came in a case involving the water company's staffing levels.

The Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, Local 537, filed a complaint with the PSC after the company announced in May 2011 that it planned to lay off 31 workers. The union claimed that the job cuts would affect the company's ability to provide safe and adequate water service.

The PSC reduced the number of layoffs to 10, saying the cutbacks could hurt service quality.

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