Senate Committee Probes West Virginia Chemical Spill

West Virginia American Water customers line up for water at the Gestamp Plant after waiting hours for a water truck, only to have it empited in about 20 minutes on January 10, 2014 in South Charleston, West Virginia. West Virginia American Water determined Thursday MCHM chemical had 'overwhelmed' the plant's capacity to keep it out of the water from a spill at Freedom Industries in Charleston. An unknown amount of the hazardous chemical contaminated the public water system for potentially 300,000 people in West Virginia.
National Journal
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Ben Geman
Jan. 14, 2014, 9:04 a.m.

Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., is pre­par­ing hear­ings on chem­ic­al safety next month and will fo­cus on how reg­u­lat­ors can im­prove safe­guards even without new le­gis­la­tion.

Box­er said Tues­day that one hear­ing, in a sub­com­mit­tee on wa­ter, will be about last week’s spill of a coal-pro­cessing chem­ic­al in West Vir­gin­ia that tem­por­ar­ily left hun­dreds of thou­sands of people without ac­cess to tap wa­ter.

A broad­er com­mit­tee over­sight hear­ing will as­sess fed­er­al chem­ic­al-safety ef­forts since the April 2013 ex­plo­sion at a Texas fer­til­izer fa­cil­ity that killed 15 people and promp­ted an ex­ec­ut­ive or­der on boost­ing safe­guards.

The com­mon theme, Box­er told re­port­ers, is that reg­u­lat­ors have tools at their dis­pos­al un­der mul­tiple stat­utes such as the Safe Drink­ing Wa­ter Act, even as law­makers con­tin­ue with years-long ef­forts to toughen the Tox­ic Sub­stances Con­trol Act that haven’t come to fruition.

“We don’t have to wait,” Box­er said in the Cap­it­ol. “TSCA re­form is def­in­itely something we need to do. In the mean­time, any dan­ger­ous chem­ic­als near wa­ter sup­plies or that could ex­plode, [cause] treach­er­ous fires, we need to deal with those now.”


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