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Watching The Waters: Chemicals And The Kanawha River

Reported: Mar. 19, 2014 6:59 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 19, 2014 9:04 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) - In many ways, our rivers, creeks and streams are the lifeblood of our state. They provide our drinking water, fire protection, recreation and stand as testaments to the power and beauty of our world.

But, here, like in other places, industry must find a way to peacefully co-exist with nature.

In a recent study by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, thousands of storage tanks were found to be along West Virginia's waterways. That's especially true in the Kanawha Valley with companies like DuPont, Bayer and Dow.

We're checking to see what their plans are to avoid a catastrophe and any possible future spills.

In the Kanawha Valley, DuPont, Dow and Bayer are the biggest companies with a presence along the river.

You don't have to go very far to find storage tanks with hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals perched just a few feet away from the waterline.

It is imperative that those companies keep a close eye on their facilities to make sure we don't have a repeat of the Freedom Industries disaster.

"We inspect our tanks regularly," Jim Covington, with the Bayer Cropscience Institute facility, said. "Some of our chemical storage tanks are inspected daily. Some of them weekly and that includes our secondary containment. We have periodic mechanical integrity inspections by third-party engineers. We have procedures that require those inspections and we track and record when those inspections occurred, what was found and anything that needs to be done."

Eyewitness News also reached out to DuPont and Dow for on-camera interviews. Those companies declined, but they did provide some information.

At DuPont, a spokesman said the Belle site has an EPA permit and spill prevention control and countermeasures which are state and federally regulated.

A Dow spokesperson said the South Charleston plant stores glycols used in antifreeze, polyglycols used in lubricants, surfactants used in soaps and ketones used in fingernail polish remover. The company says Dow's tanks are in compliance with local and federal regulations and are subject to multi-layered inspection, monitoring, detection and alert systems.

With the passage of a bill designed to more closely regulate chemical storage tanks throughout the state, the president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association said facilities which didn't fall under previous regulations will now be looked at much more closely.

"The inventory component, I think, will be paramount in identifying tanks that maybe aren't regulated to the same standards that our member companies adhere to," Rebecca Randolph, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, said. "I think that will be the game-changer in terms of reporting and making sure that those tanks that aren't regulated now are inspected moving forward and we can be more preventative in our approach.

In light of what happened at Freedom Industries, keeping our drinking water safe is certainly now at the forefront of many people's thoughts. The disaster seriously damaged the confidence in our water systems. Oversight, corporate responsibility and disaster preparation will be important keys to regaining that confidence.



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