American Water Works’ shareholders are still doing fine

Earlier this month, American Water Works, WV American Water’s NJ-based parent company, had its third quarter 2014 earnings call with investors. The company’s presentation is available here. The company’s dividend payout to shareholders is still going up – from $0.28 cents/share in 2013 to $0.31 cents/share in 2014. With 179.3 million shares of stock outstanding, that’s another $5.3 million per quarter ($21 million per year) that American Water Works is paying to its shareholders instead of reinvesting in infrastructure.
AWKdividends

The shareholder presentation also gives a pretty clear picture of why the parent company isn’t all that interested in making investments in West Virginia. Slide 5 says that American Water Work’s return on equity (profit rate) for the 12 months ending September 2014 was 8.8%. Looking back for the past few years, here’s a comparison of the profit rate of the parent company versus it’s WV subsidiary:
ROEs

Clearly, WV American Water does not stack up too well against the parent company average. This means that American Water Works has little financial incentive to invest money in its West Virginia operations – a fact clearly reflected in our leaky distribution system and ill-equipped chemical testing facilities.
 

*Sources for table: American Water Works 4Q 2013 investor presentation; WV American Water 2012 rate case; and WV American Water 4Q 2013 metrics reported to WV PSC Continue reading ‘American Water Works’ shareholders are still doing fine’

Brooks McCabe appointed to Public Service Commission

This past Monday, Brooks McCabe started his job as the newest Commissioner of the Public Service Commission. McCabe was appointed by Governor Tomblin to fill the vacancy left by Ryan Palmer, who resigned from the Commission in September. McCabe will serve out the remainder of Palmer’s term, which ends June 30, 2015.

McCabe is a surprising pick, given that he is not a lawyer and does not have much of a background in utility regulation. (For more on his recent statements relating to electric utility regulation, see here). One relevant piece of experience that he does bring, however, is his leadership in cutting corporate taxes in West Virginia, including the phase out of the business franchise tax and the reduction in the corporate net income tax.

These and other tax cuts that have gone into effect over the past few years have very real effects – including for the small water utilities that McCabe will now be regulating. Throughout the various debates in the legislature around the chemical leak and SB 373, we have frequently heard legislators complain that there’s no money. This meant, among other things, that the legislature ended up passing a requirement in SB 373 that all water utilities develop detailed source water protection plans without providing any funding to help the smaller, rural water utilities. The Rural Water Association estimates that this will cost water utilities $12.2 million, and the Public Water System Supply Study Commission established by 373 has said that it will likely recommend that the legislature provide this money. That money may be hard to come by at the legislature – but it’s really not a lot of money compared to the $205 million that the state won’t get in 2015, thanks to reductions in the corporate net income and business franchise taxes.

The good news is that the Public Service Commission’s investigation of WV American Water’s response to the Freedom spill can now move forward. The case has been on hold for the past couple months; when Commissioner Palmer resigned and Chairman Albert recused himself from the case (due to perceived conflicts of interest from having been WV American Water’s attorney for thirty years), the Commission lacked a quorum to continue with the case. The Commission can now be expected to rule on motions filed in September by Advocates for a Safe Water System, the Consumer Advocate Division, the Commission Staff, and the WV Sustainable Business Council arguing that WV American Water failed to turn over documents that the Commission had ordered them to disclose; and that WV American Water had designated information as “confidential” that should be made publicly available.

Broken sewer line above WVAW water plant

This account is from last Friday’s Charleston Gazette:

A yellow stain in the Elk River on Friday was caused by water-based paint that burst from a pressurized sewer line in the river, state and city officials said. The stain originated about half a mile upriver from West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant in Charleston.

Mike Dorsey, chief of homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the liquid that spewed from a small geyser in the river was paint. Workers at the city’s paint shop across the river had been washing out a paint truck.

“They were allowed to discharge that stuff into the sewer, but the sewer line broke,” he said. “Therein lies the problem.”

The paint is OK in the sewer system, Dorsey said, “It’s just not supposed to be in the river.”

He said the city estimates that about three to five gallons of paint was discharged.

And this time, WVAW appears to have responded appropriately to the threat to its intake:

West Virginia American shut down its Elk River treatment plant at about noon, after being notified by Kanawha County Metro 911 and assessing how much water was available in the water company’s system, spokeswoman Laura Jordan said in a statement around 2 p.m.

“Ongoing testing at the treatment [plant] shows no change in water quality,” Jordan said.

A spokeswoman from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the Bureau for Public Health was monitoring the situation and that the water company was taking extra samples of raw water.

In a later statement, Jordan said the treatment plant had returned to regular service at 4:30 p.m. and was using additional powdered activated carbon for treatment

“No water use restrictions are necessary,” Jordan said. “Water treatment plants are designed to treat water sources with the potential for sewage outfalls, and proper disinfection levels are effective in killing harmful bacteria.”
She said the plant was doing more testing for bacteria, pH and conductivity.

The paint was not a threat, because, while it was very visible, not very much had leaked.  WVAW’s focus was, correctly, on the bacteria that was in the sewage water.  But there is a question here, just as there was with the Freedom Industries spill.  How long was the pipe leaking before the paint revealed the leak on the surface of the Elk River?

The sewage line leak also revealed something about source water protection planning on the Elk River.  Most analysts look at source water protection in terms of land based sources of chemical contamination.  None of the reports on source water protection in the Elk River Valley, including the WV Bureau for Public Health’s pathetic 2002 Source Water Assessment Report, identified pipes, sewage and otherwise, that cross the river as possible sources of contamination.  Is there an inventory of underwater pipes across the Elk River?  What is their condition?  What do they contain?

It seems that pipelines actually in the river are as much as a threat to WVAW’s water intake as chemical threats further up the watershed.  The yellow paint incident is another wake up call about threats to our water supply that needs to be addressed.

West Virginia American shut down its Elk River treatment plant at about noon, after being notified by Kanawha County Metro 911 and assessing how much water was available in the water company’s system, spokeswoman Laura Jordan said in a statement around 2 p.m.

“Ongoing testing at the treatment [plant] shows no change in water quality,” Jordan said.

A spokeswoman from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the Bureau for Public Health was monitoring the situation and that the water company was taking extra samples of raw water.

In a later statement, Jordan said the treatment plant had returned to regular service at 4:30 p.m. and was using additional powdered activated carbon for treatment

“No water use restrictions are necessary,” Jordan said. “Water treatment plants are designed to treat water sources with the potential for sewage outfalls, and proper disinfection levels are effective in killing harmful bacteria.”

She said the plant was doing more testing for bacteria, pH and conductivity.

- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141114/GZ01/141119537#sthash.4BF3s5sK.dpuf

A yellow stain in the Elk River on Friday was caused by water-based paint that burst from a pressurized sewer line in the river, state and city officials said. The stain originated about half a mile upriver from West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant in Charleston.
Mike Dorsey, chief of homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the liquid that spewed from a small geyser in the river was paint. Workers at the city’s paint shop across the river had been washing out a paint truck.
“They were allowed to discharge that stuff into the sewer, but the sewer line broke,” he said. “Therein lies the problem.”
The paint is OK in the sewer system, Dorsey said, “It’s just not supposed to be in the river.”
He said the city estimates that about three to five gallons of paint was discharged.
A yellow stain in the Elk River on Friday was caused by water-based paint that burst from a pressurized sewer line in the river, state and city officials said. The stain originated about half a mile upriver from West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant in Charleston.
Mike Dorsey, chief of homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the liquid that spewed from a small geyser in the river was paint. Workers at the city’s paint shop across the river had been washing out a paint truck.
“They were allowed to discharge that stuff into the sewer, but the sewer line broke,” he said. “Therein lies the problem.”
The paint is OK in the sewer system, Dorsey said, “It’s just not supposed to be in the river.”
He said the city estimates that about three to five gallons of paint was discharged.
A yellow stain in the Elk River on Friday was caused by water-based paint that burst from a pressurized sewer line in the river, state and city officials said. The stain originated about half a mile upriver from West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant in Charleston.

Mike Dorsey, chief of homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the liquid that spewed from a small geyser in the river was paint. Workers at the city’s paint shop across the river had been washing out a paint truck.

“They were allowed to discharge that stuff into the sewer, but the sewer line broke,” he said. “Therein lies the problem.”

The paint is OK in the sewer system, Dorsey said, “It’s just not supposed to be in the river.”

He said the city estimates that about three to five gallons of paint was discharged.
- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141114/GZ01/141119537#sthash.4BF3s5sK.dpuf

A yellow stain in the Elk River on Friday was caused by water-based paint that burst from a pressurized sewer line in the river, state and city officials said. The stain originated about half a mile upriver from West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant in Charleston.

Mike Dorsey, chief of homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the liquid that spewed from a small geyser in the river was paint. Workers at the city’s paint shop across the river had been washing out a paint truck.

“They were allowed to discharge that stuff into the sewer, but the sewer line broke,” he said. “Therein lies the problem.”

The paint is OK in the sewer system, Dorsey said, “It’s just not supposed to be in the river.”

He said the city estimates that about three to five gallons of paint was discharged.
- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141114/GZ01/141119537#sthash.4BF3s5sK.dpuf

A yellow stain in the Elk River on Friday was caused by water-based paint that burst from a pressurized sewer line in the river, state and city officials said. The stain originated about half a mile upriver from West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant in Charleston.

Mike Dorsey, chief of homeland security for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the liquid that spewed from a small geyser in the river was paint. Workers at the city’s paint shop across the river had been washing out a paint truck.

“They were allowed to discharge that stuff into the sewer, but the sewer line broke,” he said. “Therein lies the problem.”

The paint is OK in the sewer system, Dorsey said, “It’s just not supposed to be in the river.”

He said the city estimates that about three to five gallons of paint was discharged.

- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20141114/GZ01/141119537#sthash.4BF3s5sK.dpuf

Now We Know

A lot of us pushed for a general investigation at the WV PSC last spring, because we thought that a PSC investigation was the best way for the public to get independent analysis of WV American Water’s role in the Kanawha Valley’s 2014 drinking water crisis.

Last week, the intervenor parties in the PSC general investigation case filed testimony by their expert witnesses. Expert testimony was also provided by the staff of the WV PSC, which operates independently from the three PSC commissioners and plays a key role in general investigations by providing independent technical and legal information.  Taken together, the testimony provides a clear picture of mistakes made by WVAW’s managers. This is a picture of WVAW’s failures that we have not seen anywhere else.

Here is what we have learned from the experts’ testimony.

  • In 2004, WVAW, eliminated from the Charleston plant monitoring equipment that could have detected, in real time, the presence of organic compounds, including MCHM, in its intake water.  Because it had no monitoring equipment in place, WVAW had to depend on Freedom Industries officials, who were trying to minimize the danger of their negligence, instead of having hard evidence on which to act.
  • WVAW has no backup source of raw water, either in the form of a reservoir or a second intake on the Elk or Kanawha Rivers.  The connections to neighboring water systems are not large enough to support any backup from those sources.
  • In the weeks leading up to Jan. 9, 2014, WVAW failed to produce enough clean water to maintain storage capacity within its existing system to provide a reserve in the case of an emergency.  Just before Jan. 9, 2014, WVAW was maintaining only about 35% of capacity in its system.  WVAW managers had no backup source and failed to maintain even the backup capacity that already existed in their existing system.
  • In 2002, WVAW learned that the Etowah Terminal (the tank farm later bought by Freedom Industries) was a possible threat to the company’s raw water intake.  WVAW took little or no action to identify chemicals stored in the tank farm or to plan response to leaks and spills that company managers knew were a possibility.
  • The highest concentration plume of MCHM/PPA in the Elk River took several hours to pass the WVAW water intake.  If WVAW had been prepared for the contamination with monitoring equipment, a source water protection plan and had maintained required reserves in its existing system, it is quite possible that after closing the Elk River intake for part of a day, the WVAW’s plant filters could have handled the lower concentrations of MCHM/PPH after the initial plume had passed.
  • After being notified in the morning of Jan. 9 that MCHM was in the Elk River, and after smelling it in their own system, WVAW failed to issue a “do not use” notice to the public until 6 pm that evening.  The company’s response to the crisis was chaotic, ineffective and irresponsible.

WV PSC managing engineer David Dove testified that WVAW violated more than 20 PSC rules for the operation of a water utility in WV.  Mr. Dove also listed 9 ways that WVAW failed to meet the standards for “reasonable and sufficient” operation of a water utility as required in Chapter 24 of the WV Code of Statutes.

With the testimony in the PSC General Investigation, we have a clear picture of WVAW’s role in the Jan. 9 water crisis, and it’s not a pretty picture.

PSC Staff “struggles to understand” some of WV American Water’s decisions on Jan 9

This is our third and final post on the direct testimony filed last week in the Public Service Commission’s investigation of West Virginia American Water’s response to the Freedom Industries chemical leak. Here we’re looking at what different parties had to say about the Company’s response on the day of the spill.

The Staff’s testimony provides a good timeline of the events of January 9th. The Company states that they were notified of the spill just before noon. They obtained the material safety data sheet for the chemical from Freedom Industries and began modifying the treatment process (adding potassium permanganate and powdered activated carbon). They did not notice the presence of MCHM in their finished water until 4pm. At that time they consulted with the Bureau for Public Health and decided to issue a Do Not Use order. The Do Not Use order was released to the press at 5:50pm, and the Company began automated phone calls to customers at 8pm.

According to Sustainable Business Council witness Mazyck, the modified treatment process that the company embarked on may not have been particularly effective because the chemicals added offset each other: “the WVAWWC apparently does not understand that chlorine and KMN04 [potassium permanganate], strong oxidants, are deleterious to PAC making it far less effective than if added alone.” However, the Company was apparently confident that its treatment process would prevent the chemical from entering the finished water.

The Company also issued a press statement in the afternoon in which, according to Staff witness David Dove,

it claimed that the contaminant was not harmful to human health … Staff has struggled to understand how the Company could make this statement to the public, considering that the Company had no knowledge of the concentration levels that initially the public may have ingested or been exposed to or the long term health effects, and that the MSDS [material safety data sheet] clearly stated that the chemicals were in fact harmful to human health.

The Staff notes that the company has the authority to issue a Do Not Use order on its own, without consulting the Bureau for Public Health, and should have done so immediately upon being notified of the spill, at noon. This would have reduced demand on the system and given themselves more time to respond, as well as reducing public exposure to the chemical.

The Company didn’t notify the public of the possible danger of the chemical for hours after the Company became aware of the spill, while misleading the public with its press releases stating that it was not harmful to human health. This is inconceivable, in light of the fact that the MSDS clearly state that the chemical is harmful if swallowed and harmful to human health. Staff believes that public health as it relates to ingestion, exposure, or inhalation of a toxic substance is more critical than public sanitation or fire protection. For these reasons the public must be afforded notice at earliest possible moment when an event like this occurs.

Staff argues that, in the future, the company should “[a]lways immediately issue a “Do Not Use” public notice so as to afford the public as much warning time as possible in the event of the discovery of any contaminant, toxin or substance that is or may be dangerous to human health.” It should also “[d]evelop, implement, distribute and practice emergency response plans that include immediate notification of “Do Not Use” orders to prevent possible public exposure to contaminants that may be harmful to the public health.”

In summary, the testimony provided by the various parties to the Public Service Commission’s general investigation show that the Company’s response was severely hampered by its lack of planning, lack of proper monitoring and testing equipment, and poorly maintained and operated infrastructure. Poor judgement calls on the day of the spill further exacerbated the situation.

Experts say WV American Water not appropriately equipped to deal with chemical spill

This is our second post on the direct testimony filed last week in the Public Service Commission’s investigation of West Virginia American Water’s response to the Freedom Industries chemical leak.

Today we are focusing on (1) the lack of appropriate monitoring and testing equipment at the plant; and (2) the poor operation of the system in the days leading up to the spill.

1. Lack of equipment to monitor and test for contaminants and lack of alternate water source
Several witnesses noted that the plant was not well-equipped to deal with a spill. Because the company had no alternative water source, its options were basically limited to modifying the treatment process or shutting down the intake. As Advocates for a Safe Water System’s witness Fred Stottlemyer (former general manager of the Putnam Public Service District) noted, the lack of upstream monitoring equipment and chemical laboratory at the plant was a serious impediment to implementing either of these strategies effectively, because the water utility did not have a clear idea of the concentration of the chemical entering the plant nor the ability to monitor the river to determine when the plume had passed. Mr. Stottlemyer stated that the Putnam Public Service District recently installed upstream monitoring equipment for less than $50,000.

The Kanawha Valley Treatment Plant did have a gas chromatograph and total organic carbon analyzer that were removed about 10 years ago when WV American Water was owned by the German electric utility RWE. As stated by Sustainable Business Council witness Dr. Joseph Cotruvo, “[b]oth of these would have rapidly provided useful information indicating the presence of a large amount of an organic chemical” such as MCHM.

Staff witness David Dove noted that, because of the lack of testing capability at the plant, plant employees were basing their decisions on taste and odor tests. “Given that residents in the area had reported the strong licorice odor outdoors earlier, it may have been difficult to distinguish the outdoor odor from any odor emanating from the water filters. The chemical has been reported to be difficult to taste, making it more difficult to detect. For these reasons, Staff believes that any reliance on such crude and rudimentary methods of detection is insufficient and unreasonable. In Staffs opinion, the Company should have been aware of the chemical located less than 1.5 miles upstream from its intake and installed detection devices prior to the spill.”

2. Poor operation of the distribution system leading up to the spill
Advocates for a Safe Water System’s witness Fred Stottlemyer and Staff witness David Dove discussed the poor operation of the system in the days leading up to the spill. The water system has storage tanks throughout the Kanawha Valley, but several of the tanks serving downtown Charleston were empty or nearly empty at the time of the spill. According to Stottlemyer, standard industry practice is to keep tank levels at about 80%, but the tanks serving downtown Charleston were only 31% full at the time of the spill. Had the company used its excess treatment capacity to pump more water and fill the tanks in the days leading up to the spill, it would have been in a better position to shut off the intake when the spill happened. According to Stottlemyer’s calculations, this action could have allowed the company to shut down the intake for at least 8 and a half hours, potentially avoiding contamination of the distribution system with levels of MCHM greater than 1ppm.

The Staff witness further pointed out that the Kanawha Valley system has had a very high leakage rate for years (over 36%), in violation of the Public Service Commission allowed rate of 15%. This likely contributed to the low storage in the distribution system.

Testimony to Public Service Commission reveals serious planning failure

On Thursday, all of the parties to the Public Service Commission’s investigation of West Virginia American Water’s response to the Freedom Industries leak – including the PSC Staff, the Consumer Advocate Division, the West Virginia Sustainable Business Council, and Advocates for a Safe Water System – filed the testimony of their expert witnesses with the Commission. In hundreds of pages of testimony, the witnesses collectively paint a detailed picture of West Virginia American Water’s lack of preparedness for the sort of chemical contamination that occurred and the insufficiency of the utility’s response. West Virginia American Water will have the opportunity to file additional testimony to rebut these witnesses on January 20th. All of the witnesses will be cross-examined at a hearing currently scheduled for Feb 10-12.

(Note that the Public Service Commission’s Staff is a separate arm of the Commission from the Commissioners themselves and the Staff’s testimony gives no indication of what the Commissioners themselves are thinking about the case).

According to state code (Ch. 24 Section 2-7a):

Whenever … the [Public Service C]ommission shall find any regulations, measurements, practices, acts or service to be unjust, unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory, or otherwise in violation of any provisions of this chapter, or shall find that any service is inadequate, or that any service which is demanded cannot be reasonably obtained, the commission shall determine and declare, and by order fix reasonable measurement, regulations, acts, practices or services, to be furnished, imposed, observed and followed in the state in lieu of those found to be unjust, unreasonable, insufficient, or unjustly discriminatory, inadequate or otherwise in violation of this chapter, and shall make such other order respecting the same as shall be just and reasonable.

In other words, through this general investigation, the Commission has the power to order WV American Water to fix any of its unreasonable or insufficient practices.

The testimonies filed Thursday broadly cover four different aspects of the Company’s response: (a) the lack of emergency preparedness, which limited the ability to respond effectively; (b) the lack of appropriate monitoring and testing equipment; (c) poor operations in the days leading up to the spill; (d) and decisions on the day of the spill. We are preparing a series of blog posts covering these four topics, with today’s focusing on the company’s lack of emergency preparedness.

The Consumer Advocate Division’s witness Evan Hansen (president of Downstream Strategies and an expert in source water protection) goes into the most detail about the Company’s failures on this score.

Mr. Hansen notes that the company was aware, in 2002, that the Bureau for Public Health had identified the Elk River intake as “highly susceptible” to contamination. He noted that this BPH report had identified 27 potentially significant contaminant sources in the “zone of critical concern” upstream of the intake, but that the company had only ever collected information on three of them.

Mr. Hansen notes that the lack of a source water protection plan directly impacted the Company’s response on January 9th:

Through proper inventorying and management planning, WVAWC would have known (1) which chemicals were stored upstream; (2) the quantities and locations of those chemicals; (3) the characteristics of those chemicals, including whether the chemicals’ toxicities had been fully researched; and (4) laboratory testing methods for those chemicals. If appropriate testing methods had been identified and, if necessary, created in advance of the leak, WVAWC would not have had to rely solely on the water’s taste and odor to determine whether it had been contaminated on January 9.

If the company had done due diligence to learn what the potential significant contaminant sources were and had collected the Tier II forms and permits associated with those facilities, WVAW would have learned that the Freedom site had never been inspected under the Department of Environmental Protection’s Clean Water Act NPDES program. They could have requested the DEP to inspect the site, potentially averting the entire leak in the first place.

Mr. Hansen states that it is entirely reasonable to expect that a water utility would engage in this sort of source water protection activity. Indeed WVAWC had completed source water protection plans for all of its systems in West Virginia except for the Kanawha Valley and Huntington systems, which were excluded – paradoxically – “because of their population size and the complexity of threats to these systems …”

More than 120 attend safe water forum at University of Charleston

It’s been a big week! In the past couple days, Governor Tomblin appointed a new commissioner to the Public Service Commission (Brooks McCabe), and all of the parties to the Commission’s general investigation of West Virginia American Water filed their expert testimony. We’ll have updates on those developments in the next few days.

On Thursday, more than 120 community members filled a packed hall at the University of Charleston for a panel discussion and community meeting organized by Advocates for a Safe Water System. The discussion focused on the vulnerabilities of the Kanawha Valley’s water system and steps that could be taken to prevent a future water crisis.

Nov6_panel

The panel included Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department; Meghan Betcher of Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting firm working with the Morgantown Utility Board on that utility’s source water protection efforts; and Fred Stottlemyer, the former general manager of the Putnam Public Service District. Their powerpoints can be downloaded here :

Nov6_discussion

To stay informed of next steps from this meeting, email advocatesforasafewatersystem@gmail.com

Community group takes the lead in pushing CSB recommendations forward

Back in 2011, the Chemical Safety Board recommended (after the 2008 Bayer CropScience explosion) the creation of a Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program for the Kanawha Valley. This program would be modeled after a highly successful program in Contra Costa County, CA. Even the January 9th Freedom leak was not enough to get serious movement on this recommendation, other than a brief reference in SB 373 that the Public Water System Supply Study Commission “review and consider” it as part of their charge.

Fortunately, People Concerned About Chemical Safety, an organization with a long history of advocating for chemical safety in the Kanawha Valley, is not waiting around any longer for the state government to act. They are convening the necessary stakeholders to try to make this happen. From a press release issued yesterday:

Between now and June 2015, the Roadmap Planning Team will meet monthly to outline what a Chemical Release Prevention Program should look like for the Kanawha Valley. The team will identify national best practices and garner public input among stakeholder groups in the development of an implementation roadmap.

Representatives ranging from public health, emergency response, occupational safety, labor, industry, impacted citizen and innovation have all been invited to participate. “Since the recommendation was originally made as a result of the 2008 Bayer CropScience incident and reiterated after the 2010 DuPont incident, we reached out to them to lead industry interest in the process. We’re still waiting on a few RSVPs, and optimistic that we will have a broad representation of interest at the table which is exciting,” says Nye. “We all have a common interest in preventing chemical disasters in our valley.”

The first meeting of PCACS’ Chemical Release Prevention Roadmap Planning Team will be held on Friday, October 24th from 10:00am to noon and is open to the public. The meeting will be held at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on Lee Street in Charleston in the 1st floor conference room. Public comment will be taken at the end of the meeting, though many opportunities to provide input will exist between now and June. For more information, contact People Concerned About Chemical Safety’s Executive Director, Maya Nye, at 304-389-6859 or maya@chemsafety.org.

Talking points on DEP’s draft aboveground storage tank rule

Comments on the DEP’s aboveground storage tank rule are due Friday, Oct 24th to WVDEPtankrules@wv.gov or by mail to:
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection – Public Information Office
AST Emergency Rule Comments
601 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV 25304

Below are some talking points about the draft rule, provided by the WV Rivers Coalition:

1. We appreciate the expanded public input process on the aboveground storage tank (AST) rule.
2. We can support a risk-based approach to AST regulations that adequately protects human health and the environment.

  • No blanket industry exclusions.
  • Level 2 ASTs pose a risk and should be strongly regulated under the AST Act.
  • ASTs containing “food-grade” fracking materials should not be classified as Level 3.

 
3. The rule should apply to the entire AST system, including pipes and dispensing systems.
4. The AST registry should be accessible to the public.
5. The AST program should be adequately funded and staffed through AST registration fees.
6. Modify the rule to allow site-specific conditions in the AST certificate to operate, and provide opportunity for public notice and comment.
7. We support the rule’s:

  • Additional siting requirements for ASTs located within zones of critical concern or on karst topography, and ASTs that pose a threat to public health or the environment;
  • Detailed operation and maintenance requirements;
  • Requirement for Spill Prevention Response Plans to be submitted to DEP and made part of the public record;
  • Detailed requirements for corrective actions in response to confirmed or threatened releases;
  • Detailed requirements for AST design, construction and installation;
  • Detailed requirements for corrosion and deterioration prevention;
  • Detailed requirements for release prevention, leak detection and secondary containment – however, secondary containment deficiencies should be required to be corrected immediately.
  • Detailed requirements for nonoperational, change in service and closures of AST system; and
  • Delivery prohibitions for ASTs not in compliance.

 
8. Significantly increase the bond amounts so that they cover the potential liability that would be incurred if the AST fails. Under the current draft, the bond amount for the Freedom Industries’ 48,000-gallon MCHM tank would have been $9,600 – nowhere near the millions of dollars required to fully remediate the site and to compensate the people and businesses left without clean drinking water.