WASHINGTON Feb 4 Frustrated West Virginians
want answers to questions about the safety of their water
following a chemical spill, a state official said ahead of a
U.S. Senate hearing into the accident that left 300,000 state
residents without tap water for days.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said she
would be asking senators for a 10-year study into the effects of
the Jan. 9 spill into the Elk River near Charleston, the state
She wants to "make sure that we have the confidence back in
our water in West Virginia, because we can't get back to
restoring our economy if we don't have trust in our water,"
Tennant told CNN.
The state wants the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention to supply all the information it can about the safety
of West Virginia's water, she said.
Tennant is scheduled to testify before a subcommittee of the
Senate Environment and Public Works committee, which is
investigating the spill. Residents around Charleston were left
without drinking water after a Freedom Industries tank leaked as
much as 7,500 gallons (28,000 liters) of coal-processing
chemicals into the Elk River.
West Virginia authorities lifted the ban on the use of tap
water on Jan. 18, but advised pregnant women to continue using
alternative water sources.
West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller and
Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the environmental committee
chairman, all Democrats, have introduced legislation aimed at
preventing similar spills.
The bill, the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection
Act, would require state inspections of aboveground chemical
storage facilities and the industry's development of
state-approved emergency response plans.
It would allow states to recoup emergency response costs and
to ensure drinking water systems have the tools and information
to respond to spills and other emergencies.
"We must demand an explanation for how this happened. And
Freedom Industries and others must be held accountable for the
appalling damage inflicted upon the lives of hundreds of
thousands of West Virginians who have been endangered by unsafe
water," Rockefeller said in prepared testimony.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros
Krasny and Phil Berlowitz)