News Feature | March 23, 2017

West Virginia Passes Water Pollution Bill

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

West Virginia’s House Bill 2506 was voted on earlier this month and opponents have said that it could put West Virginia’s drinking water supply at risk.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported (WVPB) that the bill, “...relates to how much of a substance can be released into West Virginia’s waterways under state permits and the places where those permits overlap.”

Overall, the report added, the bill would allow “an increased discharge limit of cancer-causing and non-cancer causing chemicals into West Virginia’s streams and rivers, but only after certain calculations and observations have been made by the state Department of Environmental Protection.”

Those who support the bill have argued that “it would bring more jobs to the state, because organizations could build more facilities on vacant industrial properties.”

Explaining the bill to members of the chamber, Delegate Roger Hanshaw said that, “The bill does not permit facilities to do anything that is out of compliance with the law."

Hanshaw added that, “The bill does not allow facilities to discharge materials that aren’t authorized today. The bill doesn’t allow individuals, or entities, or permit holders to discharge anything above and beyond the existing West Virginia Water Quality Standards. The bill has no relation whatsoever to catastrophic incidents.”

Democratic Del. Barbara Evans Fleischauer, however, disagreed with Hanshaw’s outlook on the bill, invoking the consequences of a catastrophic 2014 chemical spill in the nearby Elk River.

“Those of us who were in the legislature and the 300,000 other people who lost their water for up to a month, what? It has nothing to do with that? It has everything to do with that, because we know how precious our drinking water is. We know it, it’s been proven. I do not want us to be guinea pigs on lowering the water measuring measurements, so that we have the potential for more contamination,” Fleischauer, according to WVPB said.

Earlier in the month, West Virginia lawmakers were still considering legislation that would allow more toxic discharges into waterways in the state.

Endorsed by the administration of Governor Jim Justice, a republican, and by the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, the legislation “would apply a new type of stream flow measurement to set permitted discharge limits not just for cancer-causing chemicals, but also for pollutants that are linked to non-cancer human health effects,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

“West Virginia currently uses a flow referred to as ‘7Q10,’ which is the lowest seven-day consecutive flow that occurs at least once every 10 years. The bill would mandate the use of an average flow called ‘harmonic mean,’” the report said.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Wastewater Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.