Ownership of hundreds of water utility companies in several states is shifting abroad.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission, joining other states, has approved the sale of West Virginia-American Water to international conglomerate Thames Water, a British subsidiary of a German concern.

Environmental activists said Thames Water was the biggest violator of standards in Britain, a charge which the company denies.

A few opponents appeared before the PSC in Charleston, expressing concerns about rate increases and a failure of large conglomerates to expand or improve service in rural areas because of the "bottom line." Other protesters felt public utilities should not be owned by foreign companies.

The sale involves $4.6 billion to purchase the parent company, American Water Works.

The company announced it plans to make more acquisitions in West Virginia, including sewage operations. Fred Stottlemyer, general manager of South Putnam Public Service District, said he sees Thames as a threat to wastewater systems across West Virginia.

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