CHARLESTON, W.Va. — UPDATE:  Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D-Berkeley) introduced SB 373 on Thursday.  The legislation, he said, would “start the discussion on closing the loophole” on above-ground storage facilities.  “Hopefully, we can expedite this,” said Unger.

As proposed, the bill will amend the Water Resources and Management Act by requiring the registration of existing above-ground storage tanks and directing the secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a program to regulate new and existing above-ground storage tanks.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As thousands of West Virginians wait for their tap water to be cleared for use, a week after they were first told not to use it because a coal processing chemical had spilled into the Elk River, new legislation is already being drafted to prevent similar leaks in the future.

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Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D-Berkeley)

“If such legislation that I’ll be introducing had been in place, this would have been prevented,” said John Unger (D-Berkeley), Senate Majority Leader and co-chair of the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources, on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The Unger bill will require existing above-ground chemical storage facilities to be registered and inspected, much like underground storage facilities are currently.  Construction facilities for new storage sites, he said, could soon be required to locate away from potential water threats.

“It was a significant problem hiding in plain sight,” said Kent Carper, Kanawha County Commission president, of Freedom Industries, the source site for the crude MCHM, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, that leaked.

“It was no secret to anyone that that facility was there.”

Unger said early detection requirements, including possible alarms, will also have to be part of any new legislation.

He and other members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources will be conducting a full review of the chemical leak.  “(We’ll be) Looking at what happened, how it happened and what we can do to prevent it from ever happening again here in Charleston or anywhere throughout West Virginia,” said Unger.

At the same time, a date is being scheduled for a field hearing in Charleston from members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  Both Third District Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Second District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) requested the hearing of Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) who granted it.

“A purpose of a hearing is to find out what gaps there might be in the regulations or, at least, what protocols weren’t followed,” said Capito.  “More work on the front end would have helped us in this case a lot.”

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold hearings on the Charleston chemical spill in Washington, D.C. in early February.

MetroNews “Talkline,” hosted by Hoppy Kercheval, originated from the State Capitol on Wednesday.

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  • Mountain Man

    Corruption, theft, abuse of office, cover up, unparalleled political patronage, acquit ion and procurement fraud, credit card abuse, loan abuse, unsafe factories, etc. how much more are we supposed to stand by and watch under Gov Tomblin's administration. I don't care what party controls the state or whose party sits in the governor's chair. Enough is enough!! Gov Tomblin, either get this state fixed or step aside and let someone else do the job! The buck stops at your desk. Who the hell is in charge? End of story.

  • WVWorker

    I remember several years ago the legislature considered a bill to outlaw dogs pooping on the Capitol lawn. If only they had looked at protecting our water supply at that time.

  • BS

    Ok I am going to state the obvious - politicians are headline grabbing idiots. Mister majority leader, inspections could have prevented it if:
    It was done 3 years ago, they actually found the reason for the leak in the secondary containment (they haven't found/ announced it to date and trust me it is not an obvious problem to find), they had the money to fix the problem, engineered and installed it / or the DEP shut them down and removed the chemicals.

    Why do we elect career politicians like this??

  • griff

    If I understand correctly the company had just been purchased, they knew the condition of the containment area because monies had been set aside to repair it. So doesn't say that the owners had inspected it & knew what shape it was in. So what good is an inspection if stuff isn't repaired, replaced or shut down??????

  • Jim

    What took you so long?

  • Scott

    They're to busy trying to shut down coal mines to look at chemical factories. Even ones within a 1/4 of a mile of water inlets in what I think is the largest city in WV just shows what kind of agency it really is

  • TheFungoKnows

    Captain Obvious riding to the rescue.