The Kanawha River flows through downtown Charleston and currently does not have to meet public water supply standards.
State water quality standards are developed to help protect and preserve water quality necessary to meet and maintain designated or assigned uses, such as swimming, recreation, public water supply, and/or aquatic life. DEP has proposed two site specific revisions to the rule: (1) removal of the Water Use Category A (public water supply use) exemption for the Kanawha River main stem, Zone 1; and (2) addition of a copper water effect ratio for the Charleston Sanitary Board wastewater treatment plant discharge to the Kanawha River. Proposed rule posted here. Charleston Gazette article discussing the proposed rule here.
We support the proposed removal of the Category A use exemption for the Kanawha River. This change puts us on a path toward ensuring a cleaner Kanawha River and a more secure drinking water supply.
Years ago, a portion of the Kanawha River was exempted from Clean Water Act protections for the Category A/Public Water Supply use. Category A describes waters which, after conventional treatment, are used for human consumption. This means that dischargers to the Kanawha River and its tributaries are not held accountable to ensure that the river is clean enough to serve as a raw water intake for a public water system. DEP is now proposing to remove this exemption and to treat the Kanawha River like it treats all other waters in West Virginia.
The likely impact of the change is that, over time, water pollution control permits for chemical plants and other dischargers may need to be strengthened to ensure that strict Category A standards are met in the Kanawha River.
Additional field monitoring will be required in the Kanawha River to determine whether Category A standards are being met. If the river proves to be sufficiently clean, then one outcome may be for West Virginia American Water to propose a secondary intake in the Kanawha River.