In a frankly hilarious Daily Show segment on the incident, <B>Jon Stewart<P> raised a succinct question, "Why would you build your toxic chemical storage tanks upstream, and your drinking water (plant) adjacent?"
Of course, when the water treatment plant was built in the early 1970s, the Kanawha River was severely polluted, and Charleston was downstream from numerous chemical and industrial plants, including the Dupont Belle Works, which back then was a much larger complex. Not to mention that the city sewer system at the time still had places where raw, untreated sewage was being dumped into the Kanawha.
Placing the treatment plant on the relatively pristine water of the Elk, with a Pennzoil diesel terminal located at what is now the Freedom Industries site, must have been an easy call for the urban planners and public health officials of the day.
Proof that state budget cuts have real implications: The West Virginia Poison Control Center, which fielded hundreds of calls after the chemical leak, and provided assistance in attempting to research the health implications of the MCHM-tainted water supply, is experiencing budget cuts that will hinder its ability to function adequately in the future.
State appropriations make up 56 percent of the center's operating budget, and Tomblin's budget bill calls for it to absorb a second 71/2 percent cut in as many years, going from $757,626 this year to $700,804 in the new budget.
Likewise, funding from West Virginia University Health Sciences and federal funding account for about 30 percent of the center's budget -- and those funding sources are also being cut this year.
Any number of heads of state agencies or offices will tell you they can only absorb so many budget cuts before the effectiveness of their agency is compromised.
While having longer lines at the DMV, or a longer wait for your income tax refund check to arrive may be annoying, getting a busy signal or hold music when trying to call the poison control center could be considerably more serious.
Finally, among the many contradictions of the past week, Attorney General <B>Patrick Morrisey<P> declared that his office will be working in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney's office, DEP, and the EPA to pursue legal action against Freedom Industries.
Meanwhile, in his budget presentation to Senate and House Finance committees, Morrisey states that his office continues to fight "regulatory overreach" by the EPA, including the EPA's retroactive veto of a Clean Water Act permit to Mingo-Logan Coal Co.'s Spruce mine.
"If EPA's actions are allowed to go unchecked, its newly expanded authority could create incessant uncertainty for future public works projects in West Virginia," Morrisey states.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.