Monday, January 27, 2014

PRESS STATEMENT - Water Protection by WV Senate Committee Weakens In Face Of Water Crisis

On January 22, the West Virginia Senate Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to weaken standards for the amount of aluminum permissible in streams.

Water is Life...Keep It Clean

The proposed revision would change the water quality standard for aluminum from a fixed standard to one that is indexed to the water’s hardness value.  This would result in a 13-fold increase in the acute standard and a 46-fold increase in the chronic standard.

Response to the water crisis is a prime topic facing the 2014 Legislature.

"This was the first test of the Legislature's commitment to safe water following the Freedom chemical disaster. They failed badly” said Jim Sconyers, Chair of the WV Sierra Club.  

In 1996, West Virginia’s aluminum standard was consistent with recommended national water quality criteria.  If this change is approved by the legislature, it will be the fourth time the standard has been weakened since 1996.  It has been strengthened only once, to add back chronic criteria that previously had been taken out.

“This relationship has not been studied adequately, we simply have too little information,” said Frank Young, Chair of the WV Environmental Council Government Affairs Committee.  “I guess we didn't learn from the MCHM fiasco that, rather than assuming something is safe until it’s shown to be unsafe, we should take the opposite approach and err on the side of caution.”

“This vote is yet another example of just how foolish we as a state are.  Every time we lessen state water quality standards we not only threaten the health and well being of everyone in West Virginia today, but also destroy the foundation for future opportunities and the future success of the state,” said Cindy Rank, Mining Committee Chair of the WV Highlands Conservancy.

 “Voting to weaken water quality standards less than two weeks after the MCHM spill into the Elk River has to be the most politically "tone deaf" action by our Legislature in many years" said Jim Kotcon, Energy Committee Chair for the WV Sierra Club.  “Anyone who is concerned about water quality should be contacting their legislators immediately.”
The rule will be taken up next by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

Chuck Wyrostok
Outreach Organizer
Sierra Club, WV Chapter