Kleinfelder was retained as an expert witness on behalf of The West Virginia-American Water Company (WVAW) in a legal matter following a chemical spill that contaminated the water supply at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant (KVWTP). WVAW operates a large, complex potable water distribution system in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. The water supply for this system is withdrawn from the Elk River in Charleston, treated at the KVWTP, and pumped into the water distribution system, which serves approximately 93,000 customer accounts in nine counties spread over a 3,000-square-mile area.
A chemical spill occurred less than two miles upstream of the KVWTP intake, with crude 4-methyocyclohexane methanol entering the Elk River, and subsequently the KVWTP intake, and passing through the water distribution system. A state of emergency was declared and a “do not use” notice issued. Kleinfelder was retained to evaluate the operation of the water distribution system immediately before, during and after the spill for the specific purpose of predicting the impact that various changes in the status of the finished water storage prior to the spill likely would have had on the time the Kanawha Valley water distribution system could operate if it had closed the KVWTP intake.
Kleinfelder utilized a water distribution system model that had previously been developed by WVAW, updating the model using data collected by WVAW and information on newly constructed facilities. The updated model was used to simulate the impact of shutting down the KVWTP intake before the chemical spill reached it, examining various water storage and demand scenarios. Kleinfelder’s model simulations and presentation of results demonstrated that even under unrealistic storage volume and reduced demand scenarios, shutting down the intake would not have allowed for a meaningful extension of service to the distribution system.
Through thorough examination of a generous range of conditions, Kleinfelder was able to provide expert reports and expert witness testimony to support the actions taken by our client under these emergency conditions. Our work clearly demonstrated that WVAW could not have shut down its water intake after being alerted to the spill without running out of water before the chemical concentration in the river dropped to acceptable levels.
Charleston, West Virginia
West Virginia American Water