Joint committee hears from water experts - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Legislative committee hears more about chemical spill from water experts

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In a joint committee meeting on Jan. 17 members heard from several experts in water testing and safety.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, told committee members it is difficult to determine just how long the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexanol spill that occurred Jan. 9, lasted before officials were aware of the leak.

However, he said assuming there were no outlying factors and the reportedly one-inch hole in the tanker truck that contained the crude MCHM simply appeared the spill could have taken up to 15 hours. Although he said the likely cause of the hole was from corrosion and there was no way to tell how long it took to grow.

Ziemkiewicz also read from a West Virginia state code explaining the facility should have had to file a description of it's materials, facilitate an emergency response plan, conduct regular inspections and reports filed.

Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Jefferson, introduced a bill Jan. 16 to provide oversight on above-ground facilities like Freedom Industries.

"This was a wake-up call to show water resources are very vulnerable, particularly drinking water for citizens, businesses and farmers," Unger said at the beginning of the meeting. "The mandate (the committee) is charged with is the protection of that natural resources — our duty and responsibility is to make recommendations on future legislation to address this issue."

The senate met in a regular session Jan. 17, introducing six bills and referring those and others to the appropriate committees.

House Bill 4175 was sent to the senate committee on Economic Development which will have a special meeting for that purpose at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20.

Senate Bill 376, requiring certain construction workers complete OSHA safety program, was referred to the committee on Labor before being sent to the Judiciary committee.

Senate Bill 346, making supplementary appropriation from Lottery Net Profits to DNR and Bureau of Senior Services, was approved on a second reading Jan. 17.

Other bills read included Senate Bill 374 through 379.