Irresponsible Companies are the Real Job Killers
Morgantown Dominion Post - Letter to the Editor
20 April 2014
One-sixth of West Virginia residents had their drinking water
contaminated by the chemical spill in the Kanawha Valley. The
spill exposed vulnerabilities to water systems everywhere in our
state, including in Monongalia County.
Was this incident just another episode in the sad saga of West
Virginia? No, the happy ending to this story is that the
Legislature stepped up to the plate and crafted a strong,
bipartisan-supported bill, Senate Bill 373, that protects our
drinking water for the future and serves as a model for other
states to follow.
SB 373 requires an inventory and yearly inspections of every
above-ground storage tank. In addition, it requires registration
and inspection of every threat in a “zone of critical concern”
near every public water intake.
What many did not realize is that the Freedom Industries site had
been reported as one of 51 potential significant contaminant
sources in the Kanawha Valley in a federally required report in
Morgantown Utility Board listed 55 such potential contamination
sources in Monongalia County. The 2003 assessment for the
Huntington area listed an astonishing 424.
One of the most important parts of SB 373 is the mandate to update
those assessments and complete protection plans for drinking water
Protection plans must include plans for emergencies,
identification of alternative water sources, evaluation of storage
capacity, a public hearing, and a management plan detailing how
the utility and the community will prevent future contamination.
The public must be included in developing these plans, which must
be approved by the state Bureau for Public Health.
Additionally, the inspection and planning are paid for by fees
from the affected entities.
Amazingly, SB 373 passed both the House and the Senate
unanimously, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature made it the
law. One of many who deserve thanks for helping with the bill is
Morgantown’s Evan Hansen, from Downstream Strategies.
After the deaths of 29 miners at Upper Big Branch, it was hard to
believe anyone would continue saying regulations are “job
killers.” With the Freedom spill, once again it was an
irresponsible company that was the “job killer, ” not the
regulations. Families, businesses and even the reputation of our
state suffered substantial damage from the spill.
The lesson we’ve hopefully learned is that clean drinking water is
essential to life, and to keep it clean, we need strong laws
backed by sufficient funding. Passage of SB 373 is truly worth
Barbara Evans Fleischauer