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.

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