Lawmakers consider change for the mighty Kanawha

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will host a public hearing Monday morning on a bill (HB 2289) dealing with water quality.

The state DEP is proposing a change in designation for the Kanawha River from Belle to Point Pleasant. The change to a Category-A would make the Kanawha available to be used as a drinking source.

“The Kanawha River is the only river in the state that’s not designated as Category-A and it doesn’t have that drinking water designation but it makes sense to protect our waters to that higher degree,” state DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said.

Huffman said the Kanawha is a lot cleaner than it used to be. He said making the move now would make sure it stays that way.

“There are 56 additional parameters that we would be concerned about with the Category-A status and of those 56 over half of them are known or suspected carcinogens,” Sec. Huffman said. “So it’s an opportunity for us to take the river that flows through the Capital City and it give it the higher level of protections that every other river in the state has.”

Huffman said the quality of the water in the Kanawha has been getting increasingly better since the Clean Water Act was approved in 1972.

“Treatment technologies have improved drastically and some of the industrial activity has decreased,” he said. “It is a very high-quality stream right now and I think we should keep it that way.”

Huffman maintains a Category-A designation would cause companies to develop along the river.

“They are not looking at a place where the water quality standards are low, they are looking at a place where the water quality standards are high and that could cause them to invest rather than the other way around,” he said.

Many believe designating the Kanawha River as a drinking water source would also provide a key backup water source for the large West Virginia American Water plant on the Elk River in Charleston. Huffman said that’s a secondary reason.

“This is something that should be done, it’s the right thing to do and West Virginia American Water will do what they need to do on a separate path,” Huffman said.

The House Industry and Labor Committee passed the bill last week and sent it to the judiciary committee which is conducting Monday’s public hearing that is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. in the House Chamber.

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