- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A former Putnam County Public Service District employee says West Virginia American Water Company should have closed its intake at the Kanawha Valley plant after the Freedom Industries chemical spill three years ago.

South Putnam Public Service District general manager Fred Stottlemyer was the only witness to testify Thursday before the state Public Service Commission as part of the investigation into the handling of the January 2014 chemical leak, reported media outlets.

Stottlemeyer testified he was “astounded” to learn the company didn’t close its intake because it hadn’t been producing treated water up to the plant’s capacity in the days before the spill. If production had been higher, he said, the company could have shut down its Elk River intake pipes to let the worst of the Freedom spill pass or to allow more time to sort out the best way to respond to the spill.

“There was the ability to shut down the intake for some period of time to allow the operators to better assess the situation … rather than just pumping the contamination out into the system,” Stottlemyer said.

The PSC’s full evidentiary hearing will occur Jan. 24-26. The PSC has also scheduled two public comment sessions on the agency investigation, to take place 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Jan. 17 at the PSC headquarters in Charleston.

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