CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state House of Delegates will next consider the bill that would create regulations for above ground storage tanks in West Virginia.
It’s legislation the state Senate approved with a 33-0 vote on Tuesday, less than three weeks after the Jan. 9 chemical leak at a storage tank along the Elk River, that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians in parts of nine counties.
“We’ve had a very troubling situation occur here in the last month or so and I believe this bill, if it would have been implemented, would have greatly reduced the chance of this kind of incident occurring,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha, 17) before Tuesday’s vote.
The proposal would require all above ground storage tanks to be registered, meet certain standards for safety and undergo annual inspections. Company-hired engineers would conduct those yearly inspections. However, at sites sitting less than 25 miles upstream from a treatment facility’s water intake, officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection would conduct separate inspections each year.
Additionally, the legislation mandates that public water systems develop emergency plans, detailing planned responses to any future leaks or spills that would threaten water supplies.
“I think we put in enough checks and balances, within the system, to make sure everybody’s doing their job. If not, the alarms will go off and then we’ll be able to look at it and question why a certain agency is not following through,” said Senate Majority Leader John Unger on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Kanawha County Senator Erik Wells (D-Kanawha, 8) said he thinks the bill strikes the right balance. “While I do not want to see regulation rammed down the throats of businesses, I don’t want to see contaminated water rammed down the throats of West Virginia citizens either,” said Wells on the Senate floor.
As the bill moves on to the House, it does have the support of the West Virginia Business and Industry Council and other business groups.
“We’re monitoring the process, monitoring the various amendment opportunities for the piece of legislation, but, generally speaking, we are supportive,” said Chris Hamilton, WV BIC chair and West Virginia Coal Association vice president.
On Tuesday afternoon, there were no indications of how quickly the House would move to address the bill.