Carper expresses frustration with utilities after recent outages

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper is frustrated with utility companies in the wake of a 36-inch water main line break in Dunbar that affected 25,000 West Virginia American Water Company customers this week.

Carper announced Thursday that he is calling for the West Virginia Public Service Commission to investigate the “the lack of reliability and condition of infrastructure systems of our utility companies.”

As of Friday afternoon, more than 20,000 customers were back in service, but Carper said the damage was done.

“50,000 people have gone without water for four days,” Carper said. “That included the ability to take care of waste water. They haven’t had that ability. It’s impacted businesses and peoples homes, daycares and hospitals.”

Carper didn’t understand recent approvals by the PSC for double-digit rate increases for both WVAWC and for Applachian Power.

“Had they maintained their property and their infrastructure like they should have, these costs wouldn’t be so high,” he said. “It’s just staggering the problems we’re having. This country and our Congress better wake up.”

Carper and the commission has said they understand that utilities are entitled to a reasonable rate of return, but customers are also entitled to satisfactory service.

“It’s cheaper to do preventative maintenance as opposed to letting electrical grids collapse and water pipelines to blow up. I think that’s common sense.”

The commission also announced Friday that because customers who experienced no water or very low water pressure as a result of the break are under a precautionary boil water advisory until further notice, bulk water distribution sites would remain open Friday night and Saturday during the day.

Residents must bring their own containers. Distribution sites that will stay open are as follows: Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, Dunbar Plaza, WVSU, Nitro High School and West Side Volunteer Fire Department in St. Albans.