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Chemical Contamination Hits Water Supply in USA

12th Jan, 2014



12th January 2014

Hundreds of thousands of water company customers in the USA are facing a fourth day without their tap water supply of drinking water. Charleston, West Virginia residents have been told that it could be days before its was safe to drink their tap water again. A harmful chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol or MCHM which is used in coal processing had leaked from an industrial storage tank that contaminated the local river which is used for the local water supply.

Emergency plans have been implemented following the hospital checks on at least 122 people who reported symptoms including nausea and vomiting. Agencies involved in the incident include the Chemical Safety Board, the State Department of Environmental protection and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The operator of the chemical plant – Freedom Industries Inc. produces speciality chemicals for the mining steel and cement industries and was founded in 1986. The Charleston plant, Etowah River Terminal, is located on the Elk River and has 4 million gallons of storage capacity. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has issued a Notice of Violation to Freedom Industries following and escape of MCHM into the air. Following complaints from the public on January 9th 2014 inspectors discovered the source of the odours was from a leaking Crude MCHM tank and that there had been no attempts for containment of the spillage. The site was also instructed to immediately conduct integrity testing of all the above ground structures and bunding on site. An investigation team of safety inspectors from the Chemical Safety Board are to arrive on site on the morning of Monday 13th January and are charged with looking into all aspect of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in safety management systems.

West Virginia American Water, the operators of the water works and distribution system have issued “Do Not Use Water Notices” and are implementing a concentric circle flushing program beginning at a central location and moving to the far ends of the water distribution system. The parent company American Water supplies an estimated 14 million people in more that 30 US states and Canada.

Chemical Safety Board http://www.csb.gov/csb-deploys-to-chemical-spill-in-charleston-wv/
Freedom Industries Inc. http://www.freedom-industries.com/home.html
West Virginia American Water http://www.amwater.com/wvaw/about-us/news.html
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection http://www.dep.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx
West Virginia Saturday Gazette-Mail http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201401100100

Anglian Water produce new video on protecting your water supply from harmful chemicals

13th Aug, 2013



Anglian Water have produced a new video on how customers can protect the safety of their domestic water supply from harmful chemicals.  The video which lasts just over 2.5 minutes identifies potentially damaging chemicals such as engine oil and paint thinners and the damage that they can cause to the water supply when these seep through the ground.



Anglian Water have produced a range of videos that cover the topic of drinking water safety in the home and these are available on the link below.


Aqueduct inspection in the pipeline for United Utilities

22nd Apr, 2013



United Utilities new electric vehicle for the aqueduct inspection

Electric vehicle for aqueduct inspection

United Utilities – the water provider for north west England has announced that an electric baggage vehicle normally seen at airports is going to be used on a major aqueduct inspection. The Haweswater Aqueduct which flows from the Lake District to Manchester – a distance of 90km is be given a thorough inspection involving 80 engineers over a two-week period. To enable the job to take place quickly and to avoid disruption they will be using the specially adapted Canadian vehicles.

United Utilities’ senior project manager Paul Anderton said: “These vehicles are perfect for running safely and cleanly through pipes which form the backbone of the North West’s water pipeline network.

“We have been testing a specially-adapted version in an empty pipeline under Cumbria’s Tarn Moor – high in the Bampton Fells. “The beauty of these vehicles is that they don’t have dirty, oily engines, which could pollute our pristine pipes if something went wrong.”

“Some points will be nine kilometres from the nearest access point. These vehicles will not only carry workers to where they’re needed as quickly and effectively as possible, they’ll also tow essential welfare equipment to keep them comfortable while they’re at work. One will be kitted out as a rescue and first aid vehicle, in case anyone feels unwell while they’re down there,” said Paul.

The exact date of the inspection has not yet been finalised, but could be as soon as later this year. It will provide the first detailed information on the condition of the 60-year-old concrete pipe’s full length since it was built in the 1950s.

In this type of work it is essential that good hygiene practices are followed to ensure that safety of the drinking water. Attendance on the National Water Hygiene Scheme course is a requirement for the job. More details on the course which is also known as the “blue card course” is available at http://waterhygienecard.co.uk

Drinking water prosecutions declining

28th Aug, 2012



The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has updated its list of prosecutions taken against water companies since 1995. Prosecutions have taken place under the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations. Analysis of the table shows that in the seven year period from 1995 – 2001 there were 32 successful prosecutions of water companies compared to only 9 for the period 2002 – 2011. Dwr Cymru / Welsh Water has the largest number of these convictions with 9 prosecutions. The DWI advise that ‘as a a result of the prosecutions, the water companies have taken steps to improve their operations …’ and that there are ‘cases pending’ In August 2012 Southern Water were fined £15,000 at West Hampshire Magistrates’ Court for supplying discoloured water at Chandlers Ford, Hampshire in March 2011.

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) was formed in 1990 to provide independent reassurance that water supplies in England and Wales are safe and drinking water quality is acceptable to consumers. The Drinking Water Report for the 2011 was published on the 12th July 2012. The full report is available on the Drinking Water Inspectorate website http://dwi.defra.gov.uk/press-media/incidents-and-prosecutions/prosecution-record.pdf

INDG231 – Electrical safety and you: A brief guide

2nd May, 2012



This leaflet outlines basic electrical safety measures to help you control the risks from your use of electricity at work. The revised version clarifies the advice on maintaining portable electric equipment in low-risk environments.


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