Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources, Mike Manypenny, is no stranger to water concerns throughout the state.
Since the passing of the Horizontal Well Control Act of 2011, Manypenny of Taylor County has introduced and reintroduced about 30 pieces of legislation designed to strengthen environmental controls to protect water sources, air, and public health. This year he’s introduced over a dozen bills that deal with water resources directly.
Goal No. 1: “One of the things I would like to see more than anything is to change the mission of the water resource commission from inventorying the quantity of water to inventorying the quality of water. Because what is quantity without quality?”
Other High Priorities:
- legislation that would eliminate phosphate—a major pollutant in our streams—in lawn care fertilizer
- legislation that would establish a pilot program for the disposal of pharmaceuticals—another growing threat to our water sources.
On the Elk River Spill:
“This is an opportunity that we’ve been waiting for so we can really work to improve the quality of West Virginia's water across the gamut and hold industry accountable on every level.”
Like many, he’s wondering:
- How long the Crude MCHM was leaking?
- Exactly how much did leak?
- Are there perhaps other tanks with unknown chemicals in other aging facilities that might be leaking as well? Chemicals we can’t smell?
Manypenny says the crisis further motivates him to try to move toward safeguarding state water resources, but he still feels like something of a lone wolf:
“It’s been a wakeup call for all the citizens as well as the legislature. And I thought, ‘This is our chance to really get some effective legislation in there to really improve the regulatory framework to protect our water.' However, a week into it I started hearing people getting a little complacent saying, ‘Oh it’s not that big of a deal; it’s over with already.’”
But will they drink the water?
“Nobody is drinking the water in Charleston. However, a lot of people in the legislature are at least bathing in it now. But I refuse to."
What will it take to restore your confidence in the public water supply?
"I don't know. It's just going to take a lot of time."
Identifying the larger problem:
Manypenny had the opportunity to meet with some members of the Chemical Safety Board.
When he asked board member Johnnie if chemical spills are a systemic problem that affects the Kanawha Valley, or a systemic problem that affects all of West Virginia, Banks said: It is a problem all across the country because we have failing infrastructure and companies that are not being held accountable.