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Public Water Fight: DEP Rules Now Before WV Legislature

The chemicals C8 (used to make Teflon) and MCHM (used to clean coal) have caused problems when they have shown up in West Virginia tap water. (suju/Pixabay)
The chemicals C8 (used to make Teflon) and MCHM (used to clean coal) have caused problems when they have shown up in West Virginia tap water. (suju/Pixabay)
January 21, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A normally boring rule-making process is turning into a water fight for lawmakers. At the request of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, the state Department of Environmental Protection shelved three years of work updating nearly 100 water-quality standards on potentially toxic pollutants.

The question now comes before the Republican-controlled legislature. Public-health activist Maya Nye, pointed out the shelved updates are already a compromise. She said they don't cover important contaminants like C-8 or MCHM, known to have been in drinking water in the state.

"Let's just be clear that what is on the table is not what is most protective for the public health, period,” Nye said. “There are already a number of chemicals that aren't even identified. We know the human health effects, or we may not even know what the human health effects are."

The Manufacturers Association argues that the rules need to be more West Virginia-specific. The state Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee may take the issue up as soon as Tuesday.

The Department of Environmental Protection gathered hundreds of pages of public comments and responses on the proposals before announcing it had agreed to withdraw the whole package. That was in November, during a legislative interim committee meeting. At that meeting, Manufacturers Association President Rebecca McPhail said the DEP rules needed more study.

"I guess, simply put, the changes that have been proposed to these human-health parameters without further analysis could create some uncertainty for industry and unnecessary burden, without scientifically demonstrating health benefits,” McPhail said.

The association has said West Virginians might differ from residents of other states in ways that could change the impact of water pollution, including average weight and typical consumption of water and freshwater fish. But according to DEP public statements, those were considered when the agency was writing the rules proposal.

More information is available at WVRivers.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV