WASHINGTON Jan 28 Three U.S. senators
introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at preventing chemical
spills like the one that left 300,000 West Virginians without
drinking water this month.
The bill streamlines oversight of chemical facilities and is
designed to make sure factories are properly inspected by state
officials and that proper response procedures are in place for
"No West Virginian or American should have to worry about
the contamination of their water supply from a chemical spill,"
said Senator Barbara Boxer, the Democratic chairwoman of the
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"This commonsense bill makes sure all chemicals are
appropriately monitored and protects the safety of the water we
consume and use every day," Boxer said in a statement.
She introduced the legislation with the two senators from
West Virginia, Joe Manchin and John Rockefeller, both Democrats.
More than 300,000 people around the state capital of
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 on Jan. 9.
The spill was about a mile (1.6 km) upstream from a West
Virginia American Water plant, the biggest in the state.
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
The proposed legislation follows a move last week by West
Virginia's governor to regulate aboveground storage tanks,
including those near public water supplies and distribution
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. A day earlier, Freedom Industries had
filed for bankruptcy protection after vendors demanded that the
maker of specialty chemicals pay in cash, straining its
"It's clear more could have been done more to protect the
water supply for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians,"
Rockefeller said. He said the bill was a first toward bringing
accountability to companies in the state.
(Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Amanda Kwan)