West Virginia Ignored Plan for Stricter Chemical Regulations
Three years ago this month, a team of federal experts urged the state of West Virginia to help the Kanawha Valley create a new program to prevent hazardous chemical accidents.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board recommended the step after its extensive investigation of the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute.
Since then, the proposal has gone nowhere. The state Department of Health and Human Resources hasn't stepped in to provide the legal authority the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department needs to start such a program. And Kanawha County officials never funded the plan, and seldom mention that the CSB recommendation was even made.
Now, with more than 300,000 residents across the Kanawha Valley without usable water following a chemical accident at Freedom Industries on the Elk River, some local officials say it's time for action.
"We'd had their recommendation on the books for several years now," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the local health department. "This gives us another opportunity to look at what they recommended."
During a press conference Saturday night, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he would work with the state Department of Environmental Protection to consider tighter regulation of chemical storage facilities in the ongoing legislative session.