West Virginia agency aiding Paden City water system response

CHARLESTON — With Paden City breaking ground on a long-term solution to its public water system issues, the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is pledging personnel and resources to the Ohio River community.

Construction began Wednesday on a state-of-the-art cleaning facility for the water system. The filtration plant will eliminate elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene, also called PCE, a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning.

“While prior testing shows the levels of PCE in the water system to be acceptable, the state of West Virginia will seek all possible solutions for the citizens in Paden City,” division Director Mike Todorovich said.

The division has not received resource requests from Paden City, but remains in contact with the mayor, other officials and local emergency managers. Alternative measures under discussion include a temporary supply of bottled and bulk water.

The filtration equipment will be installed in four to six months. PCE is a nonflammable colorless liquid used as a dry-cleaning agent and metal degreasing solvent.

Testing of the Paden City water has not shown any immediate health risk from consumption or exposure.

The Bureau for Public Health at the Department of Health and Human Resources also is assisting Paden City. It asked the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry to evaluate the water for non-ingestion household use.

The registry advised that the results show the water can safely be used for showering, washing dishes and other household uses without adverse health effects.

Although testing began decades ago, the Paden City public water system first detected PCE in its finished water supply in early 2010. Intermittently, levels have increased and prompted a variety of steps by the city to address them. The most recent episode of elevated levels began in 2018.

Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for Paden City on Feb. 4, facilitating the division’s support. Officials stress that this proclamation was issued so the state can assist this local response and does not indicate an escalation of the water system’s issues.