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One Charleston Manufacturer Pressing for Delay of Water Rules

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Routine updates to water-pollution standards are proving controversial in the West Virginia Legislature, with objections coming from some manufacturers. (Homestage/Pixabay)
Routine updates to water-pollution standards are proving controversial in the West Virginia Legislature, with objections coming from some manufacturers. (Homestage/Pixabay)
February 4, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Under pressure from a specific Charleston manufacturer, a state Senate committee has moved to delay updating human health criteria in water-quality rules. Clean-water advocates hope for more support in the House.

The most recent step in the back-and-forth on water-pollution limits came last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It voted to delay implementation of new allowable levels for nearly 60 potentially toxic pollutants until 2021.

Karan Ireland, government affairs director with the West Virginia Environmental Council, said lawmakers have been getting calls from a Charleston manufacturer who is threatening to leave the state if Senate Bill 167 becomes law with the updates.

"There are legislators on both sides of the aisle who feel pressure from particular entities who are saying, 'if we're forced to comply with this right now, we might not be here next year,’” Ireland said. “Certainly no legislator wants to hear that."

The Environmental Protection Agency issued regular updates for about 100 water pollutants almost four years ago, as required by the Clean Water Act. The state Department of Environmental Protection folded 60 of the new allowable levels into its annual rules legislation, but the proposal has proven controversial.

Ireland said the new limits are based on better research done since the state's rules were last overhauled in the mid-1980s. But, she said the unnamed manufacturer seems to have enough influence to delay the changes for another two years.

Ireland said the threat of losing jobs carries a lot of weight with lawmakers.

"I personally heard from legislators that they'd been getting calls from a manufacturing facility here in Charleston that if these updates were adopted, that it was going to be cumbersome enough to them that it might put them out of business here,” she said.

Ireland said state employment records show jobs at the company already declining. According to the DEP, about two-thirds of the rule updates would mean tighter pollution limits, while one-third would loosen permitted levels.

More information about the water quality standards is also online at WVrivers.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV