CHARLESTON – The controversial House Bill 2506 is being debated in the House of Representatives, but already environmental advocates are worried.
While it’s been named everything from the “water pollution bill” to the “cancer creek bill”, HB 2506 boils down to changing the way the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection calculates how much of a chemical is allowed in our water.
“It specifically targets the chemicals that are most harmful to human health. So, when you think about the things we should be protected the most from, this will actually allow more of those into our water ways,” explained Karan Ireland, a Charleston City Councilwoman.
Right now the West Virginia DEP measures water during low river flow, but House Bill 2506 would require measurement of the harmonic mean flow. The EPA says using the harmonic flow measurements would give the DEP a better idea of how chemicals dilute in a river.
But the West Virginia Rivers Coalition says that’s just a fancy way of saying more chemicals will be let in.
“It’s going to allow the dumping of more toxins and cancer-causing chemicals in our waters throughout the state,” added Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
Opponents say the bill will make West Virginia water less safe, less clean and is not looking out for the best interests of its citizens. And those who support the bill say no changes will be made to the water quality standards.
“Actually it doesn’t change anything about what companies are allowed to put in, it changes how they’re permitted and how those permits are measured. We have to meet water quality standards,” explained Rebecca McPhail, President of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association President.
The bill would put West Virginia in line with EPA regulations that surrounding states already follow.
“Why don’t we try to be stronger than surrounding states and be proud of the way we value and protect our water as a way to attract people to the state, to attract new business investment,” Rosser said.
The EPA recommended West Virginia’s DEP to consider measuring with harmonic mean flow. Bu the DEP responded last summer explaining the harmonic method could not adequately test for substances that impact taste and odor of water.