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Bill "Would Not Fix Freedom Spill Problems"

PHOTO: A bill being drafted in the U.S. House of Representatives would do little to address the issues brought to light by the Elk River chemical spill. Photo by Dan Heyman.
PHOTO: A bill being drafted in the U.S. House of Representatives would do little to address the issues brought to light by the Elk River chemical spill. Photo by Dan Heyman.
May 22, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A bill being drafted in Congress would leave in place the chemical regulation failures that came to light in the Freedom Industries spill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which includes Rep. David McKinley, is considering the Chemicals in Commerce Act.

Andy Igrejas, national campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, maintains the bill is designed to be just as lax as the current rules.

He says it would do almost nothing to fix the problems revealed by the Elk River spill.

"That a chemical be tested and be shown to be safe, or doing common sense things like saying, 'You can't store it in a big tank above a water supply,’” he says. “Things like that."

A statement from the Republican-controlled committee says the bill is intended to facilitate commerce in American-made chemicals.

It says, "This is a commerce bill, not just a chemical safety bill."

The latest estimate is that about a 100,000 people had health symptoms after the chemical MCHM got into West Virginia American Water's supply.

Maya Nye, president and spokeswoman for People Concerned About Chemical Safety, says the safety of the coal-cleaning compound was little tested because it was grandfathered in under the current law.

She says the new bill would set in stone the loophole that lets such chemicals be sold.

"It's going to allow those to continue without having to have adequate testing if they were released into someone else's water supply just like they were at Freedom Industries," she points out.

Nye adds an exemption specifically written into the bill would stop West Virginia and other states from imposing their own chemical safety protections.

And according to Igrejas, the bill would do little to answer a basic question for people:

How safe are the things they wear, put in their houses and give to their children?

"The biggest problem with toxic chemicals is a lot of them are used in our homes,” he points out. “They get into our bodies through their use in consumer products, and they literally have not been studied for their health effects."


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV