Three Years After the Elk River Chemical Spill, Advocates Continue to Work to Protect Drinking Water

Elk River

Monday marks the third anniversary of the Elk River chemical spill that left more than 300,000 West Virginians without usable drinking water for more than a week.  The leak  originated at Freedom Industries just outside of Charleston.

After the spill, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill that required  125 public water systems across the state to write improved source water protection plans. Those plans included updated inventories of potential contamination sources as well as new contingency plans to respond effectively to potential spills. They also required the systems look at alternative water intakes so that if there was a problem with a primary intake they could still provide clean water to customers. 

Evan Hansen is an advisor to the WV Rivers Water Policy Workgroup. He said the main challenge now is implementing the laws that have been written. 

“The commission has a total of 17 recommendations that we will be providing to the legislature,” he said. “Some require changes to the state code or the state rules and some require additional appropriations – especially appropriations to the Bureau for Public Health that can get passed on to the local water systems to help with implementation.” 

Hansen worked on the 2014 legislation and says the bill was not a partisan issue then. He hopes the House and Senate will continue to work together to provide clean drinking water for West Virginians.  

Appalachia Helth News

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.