As the two-year anniversary of the January 2014 Elk River chemical spill disaster approaches, a national group of clean energy and water advocates is working to expose the shortfalls West Virginia’s water system still faces.
Boston Action Research, a project of the clean energy-focused Civil Society Institute, released a report Jan. 7 to highlight the challenges West Virginia residents continue to face, even two years after about 10,000 gallons of MCHM contaminated the water supply for more than 300,000 Kanawha Valley residents.
The main issues that still remain today, the report argues, stem from the core structure of the Kanawha Valley’s water utility, West Virginia American Water — a branch of the largest private water company in the country, American Water Co.
“WVAW serves as an example of how things can go wrong when transparency and accountability suffer in a privatized water scheme,” the report states. “The company pursued a strategy of underinvestment to boost support of its profit margin for some time.
“The problem comes down to this: Private water utilities are competing with publicly owned and operated water utilities for public dollars because public financing is cheaper than private financing,” the report continues.
The authors behind the study argue WVAW continues to expand its operations in order to spread the costs of infrastructure to more ratepayers, but the system continues to deteriorate, as water main breaks and “boil water advisories” continue to make regular headlines.
Most recently, they noted, WVAW requested a 28 percent increase from the West Virginia Public Service Commission in April. Pending Commission approval, the rate hike would cost customers about $11.63 more a month…