CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to create new standards for above-ground chemical storage tanks passed without opposition Tuesday in the West Virginia Senate. The bill was introduced in response to a Jan. 9 chemical leak that left people in nine counties without potable drinking water.
"I believe this bill, if it would have been implemented, would have greatly reduced the [chance of that] incident occurring," said Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, from the Senate floor.
About 300,000 people in the Kanawha Valley were affected by a chemical leak from storage tanks at Freedom Industries -- a chemical processing facility that stored a chemical mixture of Crude MCHM and PPH along the banks of the Elk River.
As much as 10,000 gallons of the coal-processing chemical and PPH -- thought to be less toxic than MCHM, but about which little is known -- was released into the river, which supplies much of the Kanawha Valley with drinking water.
The vote was 33-0; Sen. Douglas Facemire, D-Braxton, was absent.
Senate Bill 373 requires storage tank owners and operators to develop spill prevention and response plans for each tank that would be subject for approval by the Department of Environmental Protection. Those plans must disclose the activities of the storage facilities as well as an inventory of substances kept there.
Facilities also would be required to share this information with municipal and county officials.
The bill would require the DEP to inspect tanks annually and certify that they are up to standards set forth in the bill. Tanks located upstream within 25 miles of a water intake or critical access zone would be subject to more scrutiny.
Additionally, the bill adopts a statewide water management plan that requires an inventory of the water available throughout the state.