CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said he thinks the bill dealing with water resource protections along with regulations for above ground storage tanks near public water sources in West Virginia is currently in a good form.
In part, it’s the legislative response to the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical leak that contaminated tap water in parts of nine West Virginia counties.
“I think we’re there,” said Del. Tim Manchin (D-Marion, 50) on Monday morning of the comprehensive bill. “This bill has a lot in it. This bill is not just the response to Freedom, this is also the state water resources plan being adopted. We’re going to monitor large water users.”
In the early morning hours Monday, following more than nine hours of discussions on 60 possible amendments, members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 373.
The bill, as it reads now, sets up a pathway for the adoption and implementation of source water protection plans; requires annual inspections of above ground storage tanks; lifts many of the exemptions allowed for those tanks; directs the state Department of Environmental Protection secretary to develop regulations for the tanks; adds requirements to emergency preparedness steps; requires long-term medical monitoring in the areas where do-not-use water orders were issued in January (though no funding source is named) and mandates that some large public water suppliers install chemical detection equipment at treatment plants.
The bill is on a deadline. It will next go to the House Finance Committee and then the full House floor. Manchin said he expected the full House to take up the bill as early as Wednesday.
The bill, though, is much different than the proposed legislation the Senate approved unanimously, earlier this year, so — even after the House approves it — it will also have to go to a conference committee if the Senate does not accept the House changes in full.
Despite the time crunch, Manchin said he is confident the bill will be approved and sent on to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature before the 2014 Regular Legislative Session ends on Saturday night.
“I will be shocked if it isn’t,” he said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”