CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Activists say two bills that are up for debate would weaken water protections in West Virginia if passed.
They come almost seven years after the Freedom Industries chemical spill into the Elk River that left 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water for weeks.
“I got sick, my kids had rashes, headaches,” said Karan Ireland with the Sierra Club.
“I was a senior in high school, it was my last semester and we were out of water for several days,” remembers Morgan King, a British Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University who is from Charleston.
Both King and Ireland are opposed to the proposed legislation.
They are House Bill 2598 “Altering the definition of an above-ground storage tank” and House Bill 2389 “Authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate a legislative rule relating to requirements governing water quality standards.”
House Bill 2598 deals with the Above Ground Storage Tank Act.
Proponents of the bill say the regulations came after the Freedom Industries spill where a one-size-fits-all Act was introduced in response to the chemical spill, and they just want to make regulations “fair”.
Ireland says she can’t pick which bill would be more damaging.
“Honestly I can’t pick because they’re both terrible,” she said.
“Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, we have a lot of really nasty things in some of those tanks and those tanks should be inspected and they should be inspected routinely,” said Republican Delegate John Kelly of Wood County.
Kelly is the lead sponsor of HB 2598.
He says oil and gas tanks don’t need to undergo such rigorous inspections.
“Most of the liquids in those tanks are just merely brine, but oil and gas, it’s petroleum, it floats, it doesn’t sink, it doesn’t mix with water,” he said. “It’s the easiest – the easiest chemical to clean up if there were a spill,” said Kelly.
But for people like, King, the economic argument of the oil and gas companies don’t take into account the health costs of another spill.
“It scares me, my mother is a professor at the University of Charleston and she’s looking at retiring in the near years and she’s considering places other than West Virginia because this is not a viable option to not guarantee safe drinking water for our residents,” said King.
“It scares me, my mother is a professor at the University of Charleston and she’s looking at retiring in the near years and she’s considering places other than West Virginia because this is not a viable option to not guarantee safe drinking water for our residents”Morgan King, British Marshall Scholar
The tank bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health and Human Resources.
The House Judiciary Committee has granted a public hearing on the water quality standard bill this Monday at 9 a.m.