The West Virginia legislature has passed a bill that scales back regulations meant to protect state waterways from storage tank spills, a piece of legislation that some worry could leave the state’s water more vulnerable to the kind of spill that contaminated the water of 300,000 state residents last year.
The bill, which was passed by the state Senate early Saturday morning, rolls back portions of a law passed last year in response to January’s spill, which occurred due to a leak in a chemical storage tank along the banks of the Elk River. Under the law, known as the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, nearly 50,000 aboveground storage tanks in the state were subject to registration and regulation. Now, under the new bill, the number of regulated tanks will fall to about 12,000. Those 12,000 are tanks that are located in “zones of critical concern,” which means they’re situated along a waterway and about five hours away from a drinking water intake. They also include tanks that hold more than 50,000 gallons, tanks that hold hazardous substances and tanks that are in the “zone of peripheral concern,” which are those located 10 hours away from a drinking water intake.
That number could drop even further, said Evan Hansen, president of West Virginia think tank Downstream Strategies.