The Norman Transcript

January 21, 2014

Chemical regulation coming?

By Jonathan Mattise
The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday proposed tighter regulations for chemical storage facilities after a spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people.

Tomblin, the Democratic governor, urged passage of a chemical storage regulatory program. The bill aims to address shortcomings that allowed 7,500 gallons of coal-cleaning chemicals to seep into the Elk River on Jan. 9. Freedom Industries, which owned the plant that leaked the chemicals, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday.

Freedom Industries’ safety flaws went largely undetected because it was not subject to environmental regulations, state Department of Environmental Protection officials have said. The material flowed 1.5 miles downstream and made it into West Virginia American Water Company’s water supply.

Below-ground tanks storing chemicals face environmental regulations, but ones above the surface fall into a regulatory loophole, officials have said.

The governor’s bill, which hasn’t been filed yet, would mandate annual inspections of above-ground chemical tanks and would require water systems serving the public to draft emergency plans in case of spills.

Manchin, D-W.Va., wants the federal government to set standards for state-run regulatory efforts. His proposal would require states to inspect chemical facilities that could threaten a public water system every three years.

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.