CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The West Virginia Black Heritage Festival hosted a meeting Thursday between the Clarksburg Water Board and residents at the Kelly Miller Community Center.
During that meeting, representatives of the water board were able to answer questions from residents, like how to obtain kits for testing their water. Also, the water board has received more than 1,000 cases of bottled water from the National Guard. 406 of those cases of water have been distributed to known or suspected lead line customers from the board’s field investigations.
So far, six customers have tested over 15 parts-per-million for lead in water samples collected and tested currently. The Clarksburg Water Board said it has conducted many tests throughout the community to ensure the safety of its water.
“We don’t want people to panic at all. That is why we are doing a lot of testing to show them, and we’ve tested a lot of places, and you can see by the actionable level. And, we have a lot of customers, we have like 7,900 places that we have customers, and we have about 8,500 meters. That takes a little time to do that,” said Al Cox, a member of the Clarksburg Water Board.
“We are particularly concerned with older homes that have children or a person that is pregnant. That is our first priority. So, we look at those situations, look at the age of the home, then we ask them ‘have you replaced your water lines in your yard or in your house lately?’ We capture that information, and we do testing and it helps.”
Members of the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival stated that in their role of being a part of the community, they thought it would be important to bring the water board over to inform people about what is going on with the water situation.
“Being a lifelong resident of Harrison County and Clarksburg, we know that the housing here are all quite old, and the possibility of the old pipes going to the houses. So, our community is not unique in that way, the housing is old, so we anticipate that there are some of the houses might fall in that category,” said James Griffin, chairman of the board of directors of the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival.
The Clarksburg Water Board stated that as it moves forward, the Environmental Protection Agency is asking the board to put a chemical in the water called orthophosphate.
“What it does is it coats the inside of the lines, not only in our water lines, but also in a customer’s home. And, that kind of restricts the lead or the availability to get into the water. But, to put that into the lines it is very, very risky to what we have to do. It has to be done right,” Cox said.
Cox also stated by putting the orthophosphate into the lines it could pose a potential to clog their filters and lines as well as pose risk to customers’ lines and spigots.
“There are several wastewater treatments plants here in the county, and it is a major effect on them. And, they have to know because it is a difficult thing to treat. And, when they empty that into the river after they treat it, it causes an algae thing, and it is very dangerous environmentally,” Cox explained. “So, when we do all this, we want to do it if we have to go to introducing phosphate into the line, we want to do it absolutely, extremely careful with a lot of study.”
Representatives of the Clarksburg Water Board stated that they are the first city in the Mountain State to have an issue of this nature happen regarding lead lines. For customers seeking to have their water tested, the board is asking for them to call 304-623-3711 so samples can be collected.