WV Gov. Tomblin signs 'water bill' into law - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

WV Gov. Tomblin signs 'water bill' into law

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The bill drafted and passed by the West Virginia Legislature in response to the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical spill was signed into law April 1 by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Tomblin said the bill was important for the state and nation in showing how fragile infrastructure can be, especially when it came to zones of critical concern.

"It was an unprecedented disaster," Tomblin said. "We've focused our efforts on the health and safety of those impacted by the crisis."

Legislators said the bill is not reactionary, and the crisis only opened the legislative body to create a bipartisan effort in passing a bill that they hope will prevent an event like the Jan. 9 spill from happening again.

"Rarely when I get the opportunity to speak do I brag on one house or the other, but on this day I do want to express my gratitude and thanks to members of the House of Delegates," said House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison. "I think now the bill you have before you was a wise decision at the time."

Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said the bill having been introduced a week after the spill created a quick turn around.

"This (bill) was unanimous in passing and went back-and-forth," Unger said. "This is an example of good legislation being passed for lawmakers.

"This bill would not have passed without the public, because of the magnitude and what went into it — it kept all of us honest and focused on the public's interest."

Unger said while the bill puts strong regulations on above ground storage tanks, it does much more than that.

"I think this goes a long way," Unger said.

He said he was recently at a conference in Little Rock, Ark., where legislators from Tennessee and Kentucky were saying they now are passing similar legislation.

"We're not going to be judged as West Virginia on the spill itself and what happened to us — what we're going to be judged on is what we're going to do about it," he said. "Senate Bill 373 is that example and is inspiring other legislators to do the same."

Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said she applauded legislators for including medical monitoring in the bill.

"From the very beginning of this chemical crisis, I have pushed for more transparency from agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so the people of West Virginia can have the answers they deserve," she said. "It may take months or years for the long-term effects of MCHM to begin revealing themselves, and that is why this medical monitoring is so important."

According to her office, more than 1,300 people signed Tennant's online petition urging more transparency from the CDC regarding testing results on the water supply and the long-term health impact.