CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House Judiciary Committee will be the next stop for the bill written in the wake of the Jan. 9 chemical leak along the Elk River in Kanawha County that contaminated tap water for 300 thousand West Virginians.
Members of the House Health and Human Resources Committee advanced the proposal on Wednesday night after adding an amendment that requires every water treatment plant in West Virginia to have either a secondary water intake or at least three days of untreated water in storage.
Del. Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha, 38) proposed the amendment. “I think it’s important because part of the problem with the event here, the incident here in Kanawha County, is that there was no secondary intake,” said Lane on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
West Virginia American Water Company’s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, which provides water for residents in parts of nine counties, only takes in water from the Elk River.
When an estimated 10,000 gallons of a mixture of crude MCHM and PPH traveled downstream from Freedom Industries, company officials said they did not close the intake because of concerns about water services for sanitation and fire suppression.
Company officials have since estimated it would have taken weeks to fully restore water service following a full shutdown.
Lane said his amendment will ensure there are other options in the future.
The costs of meeting such an additional requirement was not immediately clear, but Lane said he thought such an investment would be worth it in the long run. “I think it’s important for water providers to live up to their duty to provide clean and drinkable water,” said Lane.
Overall, the proposed bill would regulate above ground storage tanks, like the tank that leaked in January, by mandating annual tank inspections, among other things. Water utilities would also have to establish emergency plans to deal with future possible contaminations.
The vote in the House Health and Human Resources Committee on Wednesday night was unanimous.
The full Senate has already approved a tank regulatory bill that looks different than the one that continues to more through the House.