Submitted photo Gov. Jim Justice provided an update on public assistance for residents affected by the Charleston outage.
CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice has asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission to investigate where the responsibility lies in a natural gas outage affecting more than 1,000 residents on Charleston’s west side.
During his online administrative briefing Thursday, Justice and other officials provided updates on public assistance for residents affected by the outage. He also praised the efforts of Mountaineer Gas in responding to the situation.
“Mountaineer Gas has really stepped up. “They’ve done an amazing job,” he said. “This is not their fault.”
Justice said the outage was caused by a high-pressure water line “that blew apart” and damaged a gas line, causing water to infiltrate 46 miles of natural gas lines. In response to a question from a reporter, Justice said it appears West Virginia American Water may ultimately be responsible.
“From what we know right now… this responsibility to this terrible gas outage is 100% the responsibility of the water company,” he said.
A representative of West Virginia American Water said Thursday that it had fully restored water service to its customers after a water main break on the afternoon of Nov. 10.
“Any speculation on what caused the outage, including the Mountaineer Gas outage, is premature until an investigation is complete,” said Megan Hannah, senior manager, government and external affairs for West Virginia American Water. “We will fully cooperate with the Public Service Commission, local officials and our community agencies in any investigation to determine a cause.”
Justice said he did not believe there are any health and safety concerns for gas customers outside the affected area.
In response to a question about a new investigation into the conduct of state Division of Corrections employees implicated in the alleged destruction of evidence including emails and electronically stored documents related to a lawsuit filed by inmates at the Southern Regional Jail, Justice’s Chief of Staff Brian Abraham reiterated that grievance documents reported to have been destroyed have been discovered and secured. He said additional high-level personnel have been interviewed in an effort to determine why there were discrepancies over the situation at different levels in the division and the Department of Homeland Security.
“That information that they (former employees) provided the court was absolutely false,” he said. “We are continuing to review that and will do so until we get a concrete answer back to the governor.”
Justice said buck firearms season starts Monday and urged hunters to be careful to avoid accidents or deaths.
He also celebrated that Marshall University is the top overall seed in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament while West Virginia University is fifth.
“We want to wish both teams the very, very, very best,” he said. “What I would love is a Marshall-WVU matchup in the finals. …And if I had my way, they would play a tie.”
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