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House Hearing Zeroes In On WV Water Disaster

Reported: Feb. 10, 2014 6:29 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 11, 2014 9:43 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) -Try as they might, members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure couldn't get any panelists to say the water here is safe.

"The panel sitting here, nobody is willing to say that the water is safe," Representative Bill Shuster, the committee's chair and Republican from Pennsylvania said.

"Nobody would say that it's safe," Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said. "And that's what we want to hear. We want the confidence that without a shadow of a doubt that the water coming from our tap is okay."

"That's awful Kennie, it's just so frustrating," Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said. "You know the bottom line is, and I understand it, they're saying within tolerable limits, one part per million, ten parts per billion and on and on but I guess it's going to have to be zero. That's where we ought to get and somebody oughta just say it, it has to be zero."

But the panel, which did not include Freedom Industries president Gary Southern who refused the committee's invitation, provided some new insight into the disaster.

The Chemical Safety Board said that Freedom Industries ordered a review of its facilities in October. It revealed that the storage tanks were not necessarily in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards.

And pictures show holes in tank 396, which leaked the crude MCHM.

"I would think that that would give me some sense of a need to make repairs on the tank if I found there was some deficiency in that tank," Johnnie Banks, lead investigator for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said.

West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said he didn't shut down his system when he learned about the leak because it would have had serious repercussions in the community.

"I'd like people to try to envision what it would be like to be in a community where there is no water in the pipes and you have no sanitation," McIntyre said. "Where do you go to the bathroom? Hospitals, if there's a fire in the hospital how do you protect those patients?"

McIntyre said if he'd closed the plant down, conservative estimates indicated it would be at least a month before water service would have been restored to all customers.

Capito said she's introducing a House bill which would require oversight and inspection of chemical storage facilities and above ground tanks.

A similar measure co-sponsored by Senators Manchin and Jay Rockefeller has been introduced in the upper chamber.



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