The EPA sent a prepared statement saying it was helping the state but has not responded to repeated interview requests. The CDC has not responded to repeated requests for comment regarding how they arrived at the threshold of 1 part per million of Crude MCHM, the chemical that leaked, being a safe level for drinking water.
Manchin said Tuesday that he would move to reintroduce a bill that would require further evaluation of the thousands of industrial chemicals in use that government agencies know very little about.
Manchin plans to reintroduce a stalled version of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which would require the EPA to review all 84,000 existing chemicals in its inventory and label them as "high" or "low" priority based on potential health and environmental risks. The EPA would then have to conduct further research on high-priority chemicals. It would also require the EPA to screen new chemicals entering the market.
When the bipartisan bill was written in May, Manchin was given credit for brokering a deal between the two parties.
"We don't have any oversight on so many products that have come on the market in the last 30 years which we call toxic," Manchin said Tuesday. "I just basically said, 'My God, you've got thousands and thousands of products that have come on line that are totally, you know, unevaluated.' We don't know where we stand with this and we use them every day."
The stalled version of the bill includes no enforceable deadlines and no minimum requirements for chemicals screened per year.
Capito said she would support the bill. "If we talk about bringing it back, I think that's probably a very good idea," she said.
Rahall said that it was too soon to consider potential legislation.
"If this were a mine accident, for example, and miners were still underground, we would not be talking about legislation, we would be talking about getting the miners to safety," he said. "So let's get the water service restored and the situation under control to ensure the health and safety of the people."
On Thursday, the day the chemical leak at Freedom Industries was discovered, the U.S. House passed a bill called the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act. All three West Virginia representatives voted for it.
The bill, which passed mostly on party lines (Rahall was one of five Democrats who voted for it), would change the Superfund law, which is supposed to ensure that corporations that release hazardous waste help pay for the cleanup.
A coalition of 129 public-interest groups wrote a letter to every member of the House opposing the bill.
They wrote that the bill is "a package of three bills that threaten human health and the environment while protecting polluters from liability for the costs of toxic cleanups ... in a manner that substantially increases the potential for harm in communities across the United States."
On Tuesday, both Capito and Rahall said they saw the bill differently and neither regretted their "yes" vote. Both representatives said the bill would eliminate bureaucracy and let states clean up sites quicker.
The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, scores every member of Congress on their voting record for environmental issues, including public health, public lands, energy, global warming, energy and wildlife conservation.
In its most recent scorecard, the League called the 2012 Republican-led House of Representatives "the most anti-environmental House in our nation's history."
The league gave Capito a 9 percent score in 2012 and a 23 percent lifetime score.
They gave Rahall a 51 percent score in 2012 and a 65 percent lifetime score.
They saved their lowest marks for McKinley, giving him a 6 percent score in 2012 and a 9 percent lifetime score.
The League gave Manchin a 50 percent score in 2012 and a 54 percent lifetime score.
Rockefeller was the only member of West Virginia's congressional delegation to get a passing grade: 100 percent in 2012, and 82 percent for his Senate career.
Staff writer Ken Ward Jr. contributed to this report.
Reach David Gutman at 304-348-5119 or david.gut...@wvgazette.com.