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Governor signs ‘Water Protection Act’

Fred Pace fpace@civitasmedia.com

April 3, 2014

CHARLESTON – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined legislators and cabinet members to sign Senate Bill 373, which outlines a reasonable regulatory structure to ensure all above ground storage tanks are meeting standards to ensure tank integrity.


“The Elk River chemical spill has made us all - in our communities and across our nation - take a closer look at our infrastructure, especially in areas of critical concern around our waterways,” Gov. Tomblin said. “I applaud the hard work of our Legislature on the development of this bill. Together, we passed this very important piece of legislation with all West Virginians in mind.”


Senate Bill 373 requires all above ground storage tanks in areas of critical concern be registered with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and be subject to annual inspections by the WVDEP and independent engineers.


In addition to developing a reasonable regulatory structure, this legislation also requires the Bureau for Public Health to engage federal agencies in gathering medical information to assess potential long-term health effects associated with the spill.


The bill also requires West Virginia American Water to install an early monitoring system at its Elk River plant and requires all water utilities have a written source water protection plan in place to prepare for emergency situations-specifically the discharge of a contaminant into the water supply.


West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant issued the following statement regarding the signing of Senate Bill 373, which ensures the long term medical monitoring of citizens after the spill of the chemical MCHM into the Elk River.


The spill occurred January 9, tainting the water supply for approximately 300,000 people in nine counties, including Boone.


“I applaud legislators for including medical monitoring and I am happy so see Governor Tomblin sign this bill that makes sure we will know what the long term effect of MCHM will be on our citizens,” Secretary Tennant said. “From the very beginning of this chemical crisis, I have pushed for more transparency from agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so the people of West Virginia can have the answers they deserve. It may take months or years for the long term effects of MCHM to begin revealing themselves, and that is why this medical monitoring is so important. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to follow up on this testing and make sure families are getting the care and attention they deserve.”


Just before the 2014 legislative session ended, Secretary Tennant sent a letter to leadership urging them to include medical monitoring in SB373. She first proposed medical monitoring during testimony before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in February.


More than 1,300 people signed Secretary Tennant’s online petition urging more transparency from the CDC regarding testing results on the water supply and the long term health impact of MCHM.