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Federal Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act Introduced

CapitalWest Virginia Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller recently introduced the federal Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 (S.1961) alongside California Senator Barbara Boxer in an effort to ensure industrial facilities are properly inspected by State officials. The legislation was spurred by a chemical spill in January that occurred when a Freedom Industries tank leaked as much as 7,500 gallons of coal processing chemicals into the Elk River in West Virgina. The spill contaminated the drinking water supply of more than 300,000 people, forcing authorities to ban the use of tap water for about a week. “It is critical that children and families across the nation have access to clean, safe drinking water, and our legislation makes it clear that if a chemical poses a risk to a water supply, it will be subject to safe practices so we won't see this anxiety unleashed again,” says Sen. Boxer.

The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014:

  • Establishes State programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act to oversee and inspect chemical facilities that present a threat to sources of drinking water.
  • Directs States to use existing source water protection plans developed under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to identify facilities that present a risk to drinking water.
  • Establishes minimum standards for construction, leak detection, spill and overfill requirements, emergency response, and communication plans.
  • Outlines notification of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), State officials, and public water system officials about chemical storage at facilities.
  • Requires facilities identified in a drinking water protection plan to be inspected every three years, and all other facilities to be inspected every five years.
  • Allows drinking water systems to act immediately in an emergency situation to stop an immediate threat to those who receive the drinking water.
  • Allows States to recoup costs incurred from responding to emergencies.

The Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, part of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works, held a hearing in early February about the legislation. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies also sent a letter to the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee with guidance on how USEPA and States can prepare for chemical spill emergencies. The letter underlines the importance of timely spill notifications to water utilities to safeguard public health, and requests adequate federal funding for any new chemical facility monitoring programs enacted under the SDWA to offset the potentially substantial costs to the States.

There are no hearings or actions on the U.S. Senate's schedule for the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014 as of this article's publication date. The Update will continue to monitor the bill's progress and will provide additional information as it becomes available.





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