WASHINGTON, D.C. – A U.S. Senate committee approved the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act during a meeting Thursday morning on Capitol Hill. The bill was introduced following the Jan. 9 chemical leak in West Virginia and resulting water emergency.
The bill would require states to establish inspection programs for above ground storage tanks and for water utilities to have an inventory of chemicals close to their plants.
Committee on Environment and Public Works chair Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who also is a sponsor of the bill, said Thursday the amended bill wasn’t exactly what she wanted but it was important to get support from both sides of the aisle.
“It’s seen a lot of iterations because we had to get bipartisan support,” Boxer said. “We are bringing together in one place the tools necessary to better protect drinking water sources from chemicals.”
The committee approved the bill and sent it to the full floor of the Senate. West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said he hopes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decides to take it up.
Sen. Boxer allowed Sen. Manchin to speak during Thursday’s meeting although he’s not a member of the committee. She praised the work Manchin and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller have done on the measure.
“By the grace of God it could have been any state (where the water emergency occurred),” Manchin said.
“No question,” Boxer agreed.
Manchin said not much thought was given about above ground storage tanks near water plants until Jan. 9.
“This will give every state the authority and the responsibility to check all of their waterways,” Manchin said.
Sen. Manchin’s office recapped the bill in a statement released Thursday afternoon:
“The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act would require regular state inspections of all above ground chemical storage tanks and more frequent inspections of those tanks located near drinking water sources and those tanks storing high hazard chemicals. It sets minimum federal standards that chemical tanks must meet – including construction and leak detection requirements, secondary containment standards, the development of emergency response plans, and financial responsibility requirements. Additionally, companies must inform the state, the Environmental Protection Agency, and local water systems of the chemicals they store.”