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Too Little too late?...secondary water intake plant planned for Kanawha River

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Secondary water plans was a major priority that slipped the crevices of West Virginia’s state regulators and lawmakers when the Freedom Industry Chemical Spill affected 300,000 people, the largest of its kind in recent history. And now they are looking to the confluences of the Kanawha River (to make amends) by building a secondary intake plant as an alternative water source in case of an emergency (too little too late?).

But the reaction that most people feel whom was affected the crisis is quite simple…Too little too late. With businesses and restaurants are still struggling to recover lost profits, the unanimous verdict is that the government of West Virginia failed its constituents. And that was ever so apparent when the state received a ‘Presidential Snub’ by Barrack Obama during his “State of the Union” address. Even though Obama’s failure to mention a crisis that affected so many showed his complete lack of empathy and regard for an entire state, it was more a less an accumulation of state regulators shunning environmental law for years.

Does West Virginia American Water and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection need to work together to build a secondary intake plant? Of course they do. And now with the recent passing of legislature geared towards water protection, all water utility companies will have to submit a source water protection plan by July 2016 with the inclusion of secondary water plans. And designating the Kanawha River as a ‘safe for drinking-water source’ would provide an alternative source that hasn’t existed for more than 30 years.

But the WVDEP has proposed a designation site for the intake plant near Belle, W.Va. And that area of the Kanawha River has been deemed as impaired for years, mainly because of its proximity to DuPont Chemical Plant. WVAM customers will need to question the type of investigations that will be needed before the construction of the intake buildings. Will Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments take place? Who will be the consultants conducting them? Will they correspond to biological evaluations performed? Has a categorical exclusion checklist been drafted in lieu of choosing of land to build intake buildings?

Can the state government bring confidence back towards the tainted image of the state’s water infrastructure? Most of the people who were affected are still limiting their use of tap water. Should we expect King Coal to continue neglecting laws established over 40 years ago through the National Environmental Policy Act? Hopefully West Virginians will take a watchdog approach towards the ethical conduct of our state regulators and their trust towards the integrity of every coal company in West Virginia.

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