CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State residents will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed legislative response to the Jan. 9 chemical leak along the Elk River on Monday evening in Charleston.
A public hearing was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the House of Delegates chamber for the above ground storage tank regulatory bill. Following the public hearing, members of as many as three House committees — House Health and Human Resources, House Judiciary and House Finance — will consider the bill.
From the other side of the State Capitol, Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 2) said he’s hoping the proposed bill does not get lost.
“I just think this bill is so important and so critical to the people of our state that they are looking for leadership, decisive leadership, that acts decisively and promptly to make sure regulations are put in place to ensure nothing like this happens again,” said Kessler.
Last week, the Senate unanimously approved SB 373 and sent it to the House.
The proposal moved quickly through the Senate in the weeks after the Freedom Industries chemical spill that contaminated the tap water for the more than 300,000 West Virginians who get their water from West Virginia American Water Company’s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.
Kessler said he wants to see the same kind of speed in the House.
“I’m afraid that the longer this delays, the longer government sits around and is mulling it and becomes indecisive and can’t make a decision on whether or not we should regulate these or not regulate these (above ground storage tanks), it only heightens the anxiety of the public out there,” he said.
As proposed, the bill would require all above ground storage tanks, those similar to the tank that leaked crude MCHM and PPH at Freedom Industries in Kanawha County, to be registered, meet certain standards for safety and undergo annual inspections.
Company-hired engineers would conduct the 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 a separate inspection each year.
In addition, if the legislation is approved, public water systems would be required to have established emergency plans for future chemical spills.
“Water is water,” said Kessler. “All the people in all nooks and crannies in this state deserve clean, pure, drinkable water.”
The House has just more than a month to work through the proposal. The 2014 Regular Legislative Session ends on Saturday, March 8.