"It is important to note that API 653 is the very first safeguard for improving the safety and reliability of above-ground storage tanks," Moure-Eraso said. "[API 653] covers basically every age-related damage mechanism known, including, but not limited to corrosion, brittle fracture, and improper fabrication," Moure-Eraso said.
Moure-Eraso said that, "While there are laws prohibiting polluting to waterways with a spill, there are not really any clear, mandatory standards for how you site, design, maintain and inspect non-petroleum tanks at a storage facility."
Later, during a short public comment period, Angie Rosser of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition reminded the committee that the Freedom Industries site had received a stormwater pollution permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman, Rosser noted, has said that, "This incident could have been prevented or minimized just with the regulations we have in place, but it just didn't click in anybody's mind that this was a concern."
Rosser said that the Elk River spill revealed what can happen when the state doesn't strongly enforce the environmental and water quality protections that are already on the books.
"This is not just about one leaky tank," she told the committee. "Please let's not have a narrow view."
In a 2008 report, the CSB noted that no EPA program specifically regulates non-petroleum above-ground storage tanks, and that such actions have been left up to individual states.
The above-ground storage tank bill working its way through the West Virginia Legislature does not mention API-653, and leaves the writing of any safety standards up to the DEP.
Moure-Eraso encouraged lawmakers on the federal level and in West Virginia not just to require tank inspections and leak-detection systems, but to also focus on broader requirements for "inherent safety."
"For chemical storage tanks like this, the first question that should always be asked is, do they need to be near the water supply for some reason?" Moure-Eraso said. "The facility just did not have to be where it was. And although relocating it would have had some costs, those pale beside the costs that thousands of West Virginia residents and businesses are now paying for this disaster.
"Inspections are essential, but they are not a complete solution by any means," Moure-Eraso said. "What is needed -- and what I hope this legislation leads to -- is a holistic approach to preventing these incidents."
During the public comment session, Maya Nye of the group People Concerned About Chemical Safety, also urged lawmakers to take the broad approach advocated by the CSB.
"We need to take a hard look at chemical safety from cradle to grave," Nye said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.