DEP secretary calls for certification requirements for chemical storage facilities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection said chemical storage facilities in West Virginia should have to be certified but, right now, Randy Huffman said that is not the case.

“When you have people living in close proximity to industrial activity, you’ve got to have those protections,” Huffman said.

An estimated 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM, made up primarily of 4-methylcylohexane methane, leaked from a 40,000 gallon, 50-year old storage tank at Freedom Industries along the Elk River in Charleston last week.

The leaked chemical, which also made it through a secondary containment system, was found on Thursday morning.

By Thursday night, West Virginia American Water Company had issued the do-not-use order as a precaution in parts of nine West Virginia counties forcing an estimated 300,000 West Virginians to spend days using alternate water sources.

Currently, Huffman said there is no requirement for such storage facilities to be inspected.  He said he expects state lawmakers to address regulations for similar sites during the ongoing regular legislative session.  Huffman said Governor Earl Ray Tomblin supports such a proposal.

“For this type of facility, the administrative processes, the records, the certifications, those types of processes are much more important for minimizing the risk of leaks and so forth because, with tanks, you can’t always see a leak,” he said.

“Having a process in place, where we can get those certifications and deal with this from an administrative standpoint, gives us much better regulatory tools than just walking around the site.”

Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board were scheduled to arrive in Charleston on Monday to launch an investigation into the spill.

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