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Senators Weigh In On West Virginia Water Crisis

Reported: Feb. 4, 2014 5:13 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 5, 2014 1:00 PM EST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Kennie Bass) - Two separate groups of panelists voice concerns to the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, which answers to the Environment and Public Works group.

They're reviewing the chemical leak, the emergency response, the impact on people and businesses and how to make laws to avoid something similar happening in the future.

"Our laws are just not strong enough to deal with the current situation," Senator Ben Cardin, democrat from Maryland said.

"In this incident it's clear that important information was not readily available on certain chemicals which got into the Elk River," Senator David Vitter, republican from Louisiana said.

"Because the risk assessment in the Safe Drinking Act was not used no one knew what to do," Senator Barbara Boxer, democrat from California said.

"The West Virginia spill clearly highlights the huge impacts that accidental releases of chemicals can have on our health and our well being," Senator Tom Udall, democrat from New Mexico said.

Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin led the first panel, along with Representatives Nick Rahall and Shelly Moore Capito.

"And I can tell you Mr. Chairman that there are a number of people that I could but will not name to you, have said that they are considering moving out of West Virginia because they have young children and they have no confidence in the future," Rockefeller said. "They have no confidence in our regulatory scheme at either the state or federal level. And they're not taking any chances because they don't know what that water's going to be like in the future and neither do I."

The West Virginia senators, along with California's Barbara Boxer, have proposed the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act. It would mandate state inspections of above-ground chemical storage tanks, force the industry to develop emergency responses, allow states to recoup money spent dealing with disasters and ensure drinking water systems have information to handle spills.

"This spill should have never happened and it is our responsibility in congress, working with the states to do everything we can to keep it from happening again," Manchin said. "Not just in West Virginia but anywhere in America."

The Freedom Industries chemical spill will be the subject of a lower chamber hearing next week.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets on the matter in Charleston on Monday.

There are two West Virginia members on the panel. Nick Rahall is the ranking democrat. He's joined by republican Shelley Moore Capito.



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