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DEP finds more chemical tanks near water

Read the lists here.

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia inspectors have discovered 600 more above-ground chemical storage tanks located near public drinking-water supplies, pushing their current inventory to more than 1,600 such tanks, according to data made public Thursday.

The Department of Environmental Protection for the first time released lists of storage tanks that could be subject to new rules if lawmakers pass legislation drawn up in response to the January chemical leak on the Elk River.

DEP officials cautioned that they could end up with a final inventory showing even more storage tanks located in or near the "zone of critical concern" near public water-supply intakes.

"These lists obviously are not meant to be an official inventory of [above-ground storage tanks] in the state," agency spokesman Tom Aluise said in an email message. "They're fluid documents and will change."

DEP inspectors are still visiting more than 100 sites they believe have tanks located near drinking-water intakes, and plan to examine a much larger number -- 600 facilities with an estimated 3,000 tanks -- to confirm locations, double-check the number of tanks and examine the tank contents.

"We're making good progress," said Scott Mandirola, director of the DEP's Division of Water and Waste Management, "but we didn't have an easy way to figure this out, knowing where all these are."

After the Jan. 9 leak of Crude MCHM at Freedom Industries contaminated the drinking-water supply for 300,000 West Virginians, the DEP began putting together an inventory of above-ground chemical storage tanks across the state. They looked at water-pollution permit information, compared that to mapping data that pinpoint water-intake locations, and then went through permit files to identify facilities with plans showing storage tanks.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman told a U.S. Senate committee on Feb. 4 that the agency had put together a preliminary inventory of more than 100 sites with "as many as 1,000" above-ground storage tanks located "within an area that could impact a public drinking-water source."

The latest numbers from the DEP show 595 facilities with an estimated 3,953 above-ground storage tanks. DEP officials estimate that 109 of those facilities, with 1,618 storage tanks, are located "within close proximity" to a public water supply.

The DEP's new lists include a wide variety of sites, from coal-fired power stations and chemical plants to lumber mills and trucking operations. The lists released Thursday do not identify the chemicals in question, quantities stored in the tanks or any preliminary DEP analysis of the sites.

To define tanks that could potentially impact public water systems, DEP officials expanded the area covered by the Bureau of Public Health's "zone of critical concern." The bureau defines the term to cover anything located within five hours upstream and within a 1,000-foot corridor around main-stem water supply streams and 500 feet alongside tributaries. The DEP added 500 feet to the main-stem and tributary zones to be more inclusive, officials said.

"As we make our way to more and more of the sites in the zones of critical concern, we'll potentially discover fewer or more tanks than we originally estimated," Aluise said. "Our focus right now is to get accurate information on the sites in the [zones of critical concern]."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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