The Regulation of Chemical Storage Tanks in WV and US

by Duane Nichols on March 9, 2014

Evan Hansen at US Senate

Hearing on Preventing Potential Chemical Threats and Improving Safety:

Oversight of the President’s Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security

Testimony of Evan P. Hansen, Downstream Strategies, Morgantown, WV

Before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, US Senate, March 6, 2014, as reported by WV Public Broadcasting.

Panelists included representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Chemical Safety Board as well as authorities from communities that have witnessed recent chemical strife.

Evan Hansen, president of the Morgantown-based environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies, spoke about the water crisis in West Virginia where a chemical leak into the Elk River recently polluted the drinking water of some 300,000 residents in the Kanawha Valley.

Hansen made some recommendations:

Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Vitter, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify.

I am president of Downstream Strategies, an 11-person environmental consulting firm based in West Virginia. Since 1997, we have offered environmental services that combine sound interdisciplinary skills with a core belief in the importance of protecting the environment and linking economic development with natural resource stewardship. Our projects typically include elements of science and policy related to our Water, Energy, and Land Programs. Our tools include Geographic Information Systems, Monitoring and Remediation, and Stakeholder Involvement and Perspectives.

A summary of recommendations:

  • Spill Prevention, Control, and Counter (SPCC) measures as they exist for oil containment, should be extended to chemical storage facilities.
  • Develop safe drinking water laws. Public water systems should create protection plans, and both the assessment reports and the protection plans should be periodically updated as well as accessible to all downstream water systems.
  • Make individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for chemical facilities mandatory within zones of critical concern (above drinking water intakes).

Hansen also took advantage of the opportunity to point out that weaknesses in enforcement undermine any meaningful regulations.

Chairwoman Barbara Boxer—a democrat from California—stressed the importance of new legislation in the process of being drafted, saying that a bill to address new chemical concerns brought to light by the chemical spill in West Virginia was forthcoming.


WV Senate Bill 373 Passes Out of the Legislature in the Last Hours of the 2014 Regular Session

WV Senate Bill 373 has now been approved by the WV Legislature.  It originated in the Senate and was significantly amended in the House of Delegates.  This updated version passed the Senate shortly after 10 pm on March 8th. SB 373 now goes to the Governor, who must sign it before it becomes law in West Virginia.

A major theme of SB 373 is for the regulation and inspection of above-ground chemical storage tanks, with the greatest emphasis being those tanks within the critical zone of concern for drinking water intake ports.

The bill includes the long-term medical study of the 300,000 residents affected by the chemical spill of crude MCHM into the Elk River on January  9, 2014. The medical monitoring study would fall on the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health to conduct.

Also, all public water utilities in the State serving more than 100,000 customers will be required to install and monitor for containments by the same detection capabilities utilized by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, i.e. gas chromatography.  (When MCHM and PPH was leaked into the river, it traveled downstream to Cincinnati where they were able to shut off their intake and prevent the chemical from entering their facility.)

[Note that small drinking water systems which predominate throughout the State will be at some risk, given all the diverse sources of water pollution that can contribute both toxic organic compounds and concentrated metallic “salts”, such as chlorides, bromides, and sulfates.]

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