Editorial: Some progress on tank bill; a way to go
The House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill to regulate above-ground storage tanks and even made some improvements to it. There is still plenty of work left to do.
Notably, House members restored a provision requiring the Bureau for Public Health to study long-term health effects of the Jan. 9 chemical leak. This is smart. Having been negligent enough to let a poorly understood chemical flow freely into the drinking water, how stupid would leaders have to be to not take the opportunity to monitor and catalog any long-term effects? If the state keeps a careful eye on long-term health effects, anyone who develops a problem will have a better shot at early detection and treatment.
The House version also would require West Virginia American Water to install an early-warning monitoring system or explain to the Legislature why such a warning system is not feasible and suggest alternatives. West Virginia American Water should be rushing to take such action on its own without legislation, but it is not. The public can't count on every contaminant to announce itself by making the whole town smell like licorice.
This version requires a registry and annual inspections of all above-ground storage tanks. Those upstream from water intake points would be inspected by DEP, while others would be inspected by industry-hired professional engineers. Fees on tank owners would fund inspections and the registry. Going into conference to sort out differences with the Senate version of this bill, lawmakers should delete any exemptions that would let some industries with above-ground chemical tanks escape paying their share.
Among other issues that need to be resolved:
West Virginians learned painful lessons about protecting water quality over the last two months. In next 36 hours, members of the House of Delegates and the Senate will show whether they learned those lessons, also.