A spokesperson for a major water company says it will cost $1.1 million to change its 16 filters next week.
Laura Jordan said West Virginia American Water typically changes four filters at a time every four years.
The company confirmed Tuesday, March 25 that trace levels of MCHM were detected at the plant. The chemical, at levels lower than 1 part per billion, was also found moving through the filters, exiting the plants. One ppb remains below the level considered safe by state and federal officials.
"It is not unexpected that MCHM effectively captured in the filter material may show up in trace amounts in water leaving the plant," President Jeff McIntyre said in a statement Tuesday.
Eight weeks ago the state sent a letter to the company, requesting a change of filters.
"The problem the company is having is, first of all is with all the breaks they were having at the time all the flushing was going on we were having severe weather, it was almost impossible to do at the time," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in an interview Wednesday, March 26.
State officials took no further action after the letter, Tomblin said.
Lincoln Public Service District serves a community 60 times smaller than that of WVAW. Regardless, operators say they would have handled a similar leak differently.
"No. I would not have let it out of the plant," said John Rife, the general manager. "I respect my customers more than that."
The treatment plant, based in Alum Creek, changes its two filters every 10 years, according to Rife. But he claims workers change the granular carbon inside the filters every year or so.
Jordan implied Wednesday the granular carbon is changed along with the filters every four years.
Lincoln PSD draws water from the Coal River, where coal operations line the banks several miles away. Rife said he remembers an ammonia spill several years ago that prompted him to shut down the plant for 10 hours.
"If it's bad enough, we shut it down until it goes by," Rife said.
McIntyre has defended keeping the plant open after the chemical leak; shutting down the facility would mean shutting off water for sanitation and emergency purposes.
Rife acknowledge the policy's logic, but said he still would have preferred the alternative to pumping tainted water.
"It'd be the same if you had a main line break and you had no water," Rife said.
According to Laura Jordan, WVAW has continued to commit to changing its filters as soon as conditions would allow, and that the company plans to change its filters along with 500 tons of granular activated carbon, on Tuesday, April 1. The process is expected to take at least 8 weeks to complete.