Friday, February 28, 2014

W.Va. inspectors find more than 1,600 chemical storage tanks in critical areas near water supplies

Reuters graphic: Site of Jan. 9 spill
The January chemical spill that dumped thousands of gallons of a coal cleaner into a major regional water supply in West Virginia has led to an investigation that continues to shed light on the lack of state regulations on above-ground chemical storage tanks located near public drinking-water supplies (not just a problem in West Virginia). State inspectors say they have found 600 more tanks, bringing the total to more than 1,600, Ken Ward reports for The Charleston Gazette.

"The Department of Environmental Protection for the first time released lists of storage tanks that could be subject to new rules if lawmakers pass legislation drawn up in response to the January chemical leak on the Elk River," Ward writes. "DEP officials cautioned that they could end up with a final inventory showing even more storage tanks located in or near the 'zone of critical concern' near public water-supply intakes." Inspectors are still visiting sites, "and plan to examine a much larger number -- 600 facilities with an estimated 3,000 tanks -- to confirm locations, double-check the number of tanks and examine the tank contents." The list includes coal-fired power stations, chemical plants, lumber mills, and trucking operations, but does not identify what chemicals are being stored or the amount of chemicals.

"To define tanks that could potentially impact public water systems, DEP officials expanded the area covered by the Bureau of Public Health's 'zone of critical concern'," Ward writes. "The bureau defines the term to cover anything located within five hours upstream and within a 1,000-foot corridor around main-stem water supply streams and 500 feet alongside tributaries. The DEP added 500 feet to the main-stem and tributary zones to be more inclusive, officials said." (Read more)

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