CHARLESTON – With the revelation that another chemical tainted the drinking water for 300,000 people in nine counties, Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant renewed her calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to post online the test results that explain to West Virginians how the water is determined to be safe.
A product called PPH was mixed with the Crude MCHM that leaked from a ruptured storage tank and into the drinking water supply earlier this month.
“It is very disturbing that we are just now finding out about this new chemical almost two weeks after the leak,” Tennant said. “And with this new information West Virginians are right to raise even more questions about the safety of their drinking water. They need to have that reassurance and a good first step is for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to post online all of the tests done on our water, the methodology, and the results. West Virginians demand and deserve clear, concise, and easy to understand answers to these very serious questions. We must have confidence that the water coming out of our faucets is not going to make our families sick.”
Tennant has sent a letter to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, asking the agency to set up the website quickly.
She has also supported House Bill 4175, the West Virginia Small Business Emergency Act, which is now pending before a State Senate Committee.
“The bill would allow for the drafting of an emergency rule that would provide assistance to small businesses affected by States of Emergency,” she said.
On Friday, after spending the week listening to the concerns of West Virginians affected by the ongoing impacts from the chemical spill that contaminated the largest water source in the state, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) released the following statement:
“After speaking to people directly affected by the spill, it is clear West Virginians are still very concerned about the quality of their water and the potential long-term effects of the water contamination. The first step to restoring confidence in our water system and ensuring West Virginians that their water is safe is to tear down Freedom Industry’s facility and completely remediate the site. We need to start from scratch. In addition, I will continue to work at the federal level to pass legislation that will fix the problems that allowed this disaster to happen in the first place.”
Last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, joined by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, Senate President Jeff Kessler, and House Speaker Tim Miley, announced new proposed legislation to implement an above ground storage tank regulation program in West Virginia.
“The last 11 days have been an extremely difficult time for so many West Virginians,” Gov. Tomblin said. “The discharge of chemicals or other contaminants into our water supply is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This proposed legislation includes reasonable, common sense provisions to regulate above ground storage tanks across the state including those located in areas of critical concern near our public water supply and distribution systems.”
The Governor’s legislation will assure all above ground storage tanks are built and maintained consistent with required safety standards; require all public water systems to have written plans in place to prepare for emergencies, specifically in the event a contaminant is discharged in the water supply; and will protect the health and safety of West Virginians and the environment.
In addition, the legislation will empower the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to implement an above ground storage tank regulation program requiring all operators to self-report the location of all above ground storage tanks and detail on the construction and maintenance on each tank. It will also require written annual reports outlining any changes to on-site tanks.
“This legislation will not duplicate the state and federal regulator efforts already in place,” Gov. Tomblin said. “It requires a team effort - allowing our DEP to work with our public health officials at the Department of Health and Human Resources to make sure that our zones of critical concern near our waterways remain safe. We will continue to work collaboratively with our legislative leadership, who have already taken steps toward accomplishing these collective goals.”
The legislation also requires annual inspections and certifications by professional engineers and allows the Secretary of DEP to order a facility take corrective action when storing material that may impact the health and safety of West Virginians. In addition, it requires facilities to submit individual spill prevention response plans for each on-site above ground storage tank and will permit the DEP to assess penalties for a facility’s non-compliance.