A year ago, residents of Charleston, W.Va., learned that their entire drinking water supply had become contaminated by MCHM, a toxic chemical used to wash coal. Ten thousand gallons of MCHM had spilled from a corroding storage tank by the Elk River, located a mile upstream of the city’s drinking water intake pipes. As a result of the chemical spill, 300,000 citizens lost their water for more than a week, and hundreds sought emergency care.
That accident alone should have been a wake-up call for Virginians about the need to protect our water supply from chemical spills. But a year later, it seems, we’re acting as if this is all just water under the bridge.
Virginia essentially has no laws on the books to regulate land-based storage of toxic chemicals near rivers. West Virginia enacted comprehensive drinking water protection legislation last April after the spill, and it’s time for Virginia to do the same.
Noah M. Sachs, Time to Upgrade Drinking Water Protections, Rich. Times-Dispatch (Jan. 18, 2015).