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W.Va. PSC staff, union back water company reports

5:08 PM, Jan 26, 2014   |    comments
Jonathan Steele, owner of Bluegrass Kitchen, fills a jug with cleaning water in the back of his restaurant in Charleston, W.Va., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The West Virginia Public Service Commission's staff and a union are supporting a motion that seeks to require West Virginia American Water to continue submitting quarterly reports to the PSC on the quality of its service.

The PSC's Consumer Advocate Division filed the motion with the commission on Wednesday, asking it to require the reports until further notice. The motion cites the 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.

On Friday, the PSC's staff and the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, Local 537 filed responses supporting the motion. The union had made a similar request in October 2013 when it asked the PSC to reconsider the case that prompted the reports.

"In light of the Elk River chemical spill and its aftermath, there is every reason for the Commission to continue to require that the Company provide detailed information on its operations and the state of its physical and human infrastructure," the union wrote in its filing. "These data will be important both to the Commission and to West Virginia consumers going forward."

West Virginia American Water told the PSC on Friday in a filing that the motion should be denied. The company said none of the quarterly reports' service-related metrics is related to the spill or to the company's response to the incident. It also said the Consumer Advocate Division did not cite any other basis for prolonging the case.

The union had 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 and ordered the company to submit quarterly reports through the fourth quarter of 2013 about water line breaks, staffing levels, average response times to repair leaks and other service-related metrics.


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