Chemical Spills

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the chemical spill into the Elk River that led to the disruption of water service to more than 300,000 West Virginians, it’s don’t rely on federal agencies.

The storage tank and containment area at the Freedom Industries coal preparation plant along the Elk River were not inspected by either federal or state authorities. Inspections may not have found the problem that caused the toxic chemical on Jan. 9 to flow into the Elk and into the intake of the West Virginia American Water Co., but not looking guaranteed deficiencies would never be found.

The West Virginia Legislature is conducting hearings. West Virginia lawmakers in Congress have requested hearings.

This is one case where talk is good because we need to learn what happened, but action is better. West Virginia agencies, such as the Division of Environmental Protection, should be at the lead in inspecting such chemical storage facilities, particularly if a failure at those facilities would flow into the sources from where potable water is produced.

Such sites should be cataloged into a database.

If the authority for inspections are lacking, the Legislature needs to act to provide it.