Legislators and citizen groups call for a stronger water quality rule

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 9:37 PM EDT
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NORTH-CENTRAL, W.Va (WDTV) - West Virginia legislators called for a strong water quality rule at a virtual press conference hosted by West Virginia Citizen Action Group and the West Virginia Environmental Council.

At its all-day meeting Wednesday, the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee will consider the proposed water quality rule as part of its agenda. All members of the committee were invited to today’s press conference.

“West Virginia has had more than our fair share of toxic spills, including the horrible 2014 Freedom spill, which deprived over 300,000 of drinking water. We have the third-highest rate of cancer in the country,” said state Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia).

All members of the committee were invited to today’s press conference.

“Since 2017, some industries have been trying to convince the Legislature to delay or reject most of the 95 updates proposed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to its human health criteria, which were based on science," said Fleischauer.

The rule, which is on the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee’s agenda for Wednesday, September 23, would allow an increase in pollution from 13 toxic chemicals and carcinogens in rivers and streams that serve as drinking water sources.

“The proposed rule is unacceptable,” said Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia). “It violates the legislative compromise we made two years ago, and it weakens standards for 13 pollutants, including nine carcinogens. All West Virginians deserve clean drinking water.”

Rather than acting in 2019 when a similar rule was first proposed, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 163, a compromise that pushed the rule back to the 2021 legislative session.

“For me this is about stewardship of God’s creation. We have a sacred trust to take care of our land and water,” explained Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier).

The rule before the Committee this week does not uphold that compromise.

“This Dirty Water Rule before the Committee tomorrow is the result of successful lobbying by polluters who want to be able to use our waterways as their sewers,” commented Gary Zuckett, Director of WV Citizen Action. “Allowing more cancer causing chemicals to be dumped into drinking water sources is indefensible and just plain wrong!”

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