CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is moving quickly to address the problems identified when a chemical leak along the Elk River made tap water unusable for days for more than 300,000 people in parts of nine West Virginia counties.
Tomblin talked about the proposed West Virginia Source Water Protection Act at the State Capitol on Monday, eleven days after the leak of crude MCHM.
If approved, the legislation will create an above ground storage tank regulatory program to ensure such facilities are built and maintained under consistent safety standards. As part of it, companies will have to self-report the location of all above ground storage tanks and detail the construction and maintenance on each tank.
The state Department of Environmental Protection will be able to assess penalties for a facility’s non-compliance.
Additionally, all public water systems will have to have written plans in place to prepare for emergencies, especially those involving possible contaminants discharged into the water supply.
“It’s aimed at protecting our public safety by requiring companies to act in a responsible manner,” said Jason Pizatella, Tomblin Administration deputy chief of staff. “Accidents do happen, but this legislation will go very, very far in trying to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
A coal processing chemical, an estimated 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM, leaked from a tank Freedom Industries owns in Charleston on Jan. 9.
“The fact that Freedom Industries was allowed to operate the way it was and the secondary containment was able to deteriorate the way it did is something that shouldn’t happen again,” said Pizatella.
Already, the state House of Delegates has approved a bill that would provide financial assistance to the small businesses that were forced to close because of the water emergency.
A separate regulatory bill is pending in the state Senate.