CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The lead investigator for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board told state lawmakers Friday that given recent emergencies in the Kanawha Valley a conclusion could be drawn that there are systemic problems with the maintenance and management of chemical tanks in the area.
But Johnnie Banks also said that’s not a problem unique to West Virginia.
“There’s an issue throughout most of the cases that we deploy to where mechanical integrity procedures system failures are commonplace and almost accepted,” Banks said.
The CSB has been to the Charleston area three times in the past five years. It investigated the 2008 deadly explosion at the Bayer CropScience Plant in Institute and the 2012 natural gasoline pipeline explosion in Sissonville.
Banks updated members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Water Resources Friday on the team’s investigation into the Freedom Industries leak that touched off the nine-county water emergency this month. He promised to get some preliminary recommendations to lawmakers soon. He said it normally takes about a year to complete the final investigation.
The Chemical Safety Board’s investigation will include discussions with West Virginia American Water Company about its water processing and possible alternate water intakes.
“Hopefully there will be some elements that come out of those discussions that will point to what should be in place if not in place currently,” Banks said.
Banks added he doesn’t blame residents for their continued doubts about the water.
“When pregnant women were advised to not drink (it) signaled that it’s just not safe to drink until folks can be absolutely sure that everybody can drink it,” Banks said.
The lead investigator said preliminary findings in the investigation would be presented in a public meeting in a few months.