Chemical Spill
10:35 am
Tue January 14, 2014

What Might Help Prevent a Chemical Spill From Happening Again?

Gov. Tomblin speaks at a press conference following last week's chemical spill.
Gov. Tomblin speaks at a press conference following last week's chemical spill.
Credit Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman says he and Gov. Tomblin are already having conversations about what possible legislation can be introduced following last week’s chemical spill.

Officials at Downstream Strategies in Morgantown say the Freedom Industries facility slipped through many gaps in the regulatory system. One of these gaps is that since the company wasn’t storing a petroleum product just a few miles from the water intake, it wasn’t subject to a lot of regulations and oversight that would have required stronger contingency plans, in case a spill happened, and much more frequent reporting.

"As a product, MCHM is not a hazardous substance. There's only very limited toxicology data on that, but it's not regulated as a hazardous substance itself, just a component of it is, which is methanol," said Marc Glass with Downstream Strategies.

"It's a mixture of several components."

This Image is part of a water assessment study that was completed in 2002 for the Elk River.
This Image is part of a water assessment study that was completed in 2002 for the Elk River.
Credit West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

  Glass,  says collaboration and cooperation between the utility company, along with the industry and even environmental regulators, must be much better.

He says there’s a framework, an assessment plan that was written in 2002, that could act as a tool to help all stakeholders work together better. It's a source water assessment program, that was actually written for the Elk River. This assessment is located here.

The 2002 assessment suggested, amongst other things, that a secondary source of water should be identified to help protect drinking water when incidents occur.

But Glass says regardless of what is done, it needs to happen soon, because incidents like this one could certainly happen at any time, if problems are neglected.

“It’s certainly a wake up call for what could have happened, and a good opportunity to take heed of just how critical access to clean water, how critical that is for our economy," Glass said.

"We always talk about the challenges of balancing the environment with the economy, but just look at what happens to the economy when we don't have the availability of good, clean water.