DEP secretary: 1,100 storage tanks found ‘not fit for service’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 1,000 above ground storage tanks have been found ‘not fit for service’ as part of the required inspections following the chemical spill and water emergency that happened a year ago this week.

The Above Ground Storage Act, signed into law last year after the leak of crude MCHM into the Elk River in Charleston that resulted in tap water being contaminated for 300,000 residents, required storage tanks to be inspected and certified by Jan. 1. State DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said Monday of the nearly 50,000 registered tanks, 28,000 have received certified inspections and of those, 1,100 tanks are being taken out of service.

“For a variety of reasons (those tanks) are already taken out of service or are in the process of being taken out of service because the inspection has deemed them not fit for service,” Huffman said.

Huffman didn’t immediately know how many of those ‘not fit for service’ tanks were in areas of critical concern, near water sources. Huffman said it’s proof the law is working.

“The DEP did not go out and make these determinations. The tank owners themselves, as a result of wanting to comply with Senate bill 373, made those determinations,” he said.

The DEP is willing to be patient with the owners of some 20,000 registered tanks who missed the Jan. 1 inspection deadline.

“Yes, the date has come and gone and yes, that’s a problem,” Huffman admitted on Talkline Monday. “There is a time and place to deal with that. But right now, we think it’s most important that we get these inspections done and we get these tank owners through the process.”

Huffman said there will be a point with those who haven’t had their tanks inspected will face a problem with the DEP. He said that will be in a matter of weeks, not months. Huffman said the DEP itself has a number of above ground storage tanks that the agency is also working to get inspected. He said the agency missed the deadline with some of those tanks.

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