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WV Lawmakers Stall Toxic Water-Pollution Update at Industry Request


Monday, January 7, 2019   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At industry request, a legislative rule-making committee has stalled new limits to nearly 100 toxic water pollutants, as state lawmakers prepare to update regulations.

Three years ago, federal agency experts handed down new recommendations for limiting toxins in state surface waters under the Clean Water Act. Since then, the state Department of Environmental Protection has worked to implement them.

But Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said at the last minute, the West Virginia Manufacturers Association asked lawmakers to throw out the changes and keep rules based on research more than 30 years old.

"It's past time to update these, but that was undone in a single vote,” Rosser said. “Now, we're still back to science that protects our health, that protects our drinking water, conducted prior to 1985."

During the committee hearing, the manufacturers' association said it needed more time to study the three-year-old federal recommendations, but offered no argument against any specific proposal.

In 2014, a tank at Freedom Industries leaked chemicals into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking-water system used by a large segment of the state. Rosser said hospitals treated hundreds of people after that spill. She said she’s astonished to see lawmakers dismissing potentially serious drinking-water contamination issues.

"West Virginians know very well chemicals that shouldn't be in our drinking water make us sick, they shut down businesses,” she said. “It's mystifying to me why this legislative committee would not provide the best protections to the water we drink."

The work of the rule-making committee is a regular part of preparations ahead of the legislative session starting this week. Rosser said she hopes people can convince lawmakers to reinstate the updated water-pollution limits for health and safety when DEP rule-making comes up during the session.

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