CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Judiciary Committee will be the next stop for legislation that would create regulations for all above ground chemical storage facilities in West Virginia.
On Wednesday, the Senate Natural Resources Committee approved SB 373 with little discussion. It’s a bill Senate Majority Leader John Unger (D-Berkeley) introduced last week in response to the Jan. 9 chemical leak on the Elk River in Kanawha County.
A mixture of crude MCHM and PPH leaked from a storage tank belonging to Freedom Industries and was carried downstream to the intake for West Virginia American Water Company’s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant. The facility provides water to 300,000 people.
“If you have an above ground storage facility of liquids, then you need to register and have regular inspections,” Unger has said of the proposal.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has offered a different proposal that was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and also sent to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration.
The West Virginia Source Protection Act, SB 417, would require registrations and annual inspections only for above ground sites storing chemicals in areas categorized as “zones of critical concern,” including those upstream from water intakes.
The bill would also mandate that water companies have contingency plans for water emergencies.
Senator Bill Laird (D-10, Raleigh), chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, said it’s up to legislators to work out the details.
“Our responsibility will be to take the best components of each bill to craft legislation to ensure that things like this do not occur in the future,” said Laird.
“We want to know where these tanks are, what’s in them and how to make sure that proper steps are taken to ensure that the integrity of those storage tanks is maintained.”
The 2014 Regular Legislative Session continues through Saturday, March 8.