Lawmakers introduce Clean Water Act of 2020 in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020 (House Bill 4542)has been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate. The legislation is designed to address polluted drinking water as shown in the feature film “Dark Waters.”

Monongalia County Delegate Evan Hansen is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4542 and Senator William Ihienfeld is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 679.

The Clean Drinking Water Act of 2020 requires companies that have recently used PFAS chemicals to monitor their discharges for these currently unregulated chemicals. It also creates the West Virginia PFAS Action Response Team, modeled after a similar, successful inter-agency team in Michigan.

“These are pollutants that are relatively new, they’re man made and invented in the last few decades,”Hansen said,”Many of them are very toxic to people, but they are not regulated at the state or federal level.”

The data reported by companies and information collected by the PFAS Action Response Team, will allow West Virginia to develop science-based standards to keep water sources safe and clean.

Hansen says there are two areas in the Mountain State that are contaminated.

“The first area is in Wood County, these are impacts related to discharges from teflon production by Dupont,”Hansen said,”The second area where we know there is documented PFAS contamination is in Martinsburg.”

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s, the chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body, meaning they do not break down and can accumulate over time.

Delegate Hansen said, “We owe it to the people who were sickened, and to the family members of those who were killed, to properly regulate these toxic chemicals. We’re taking a systematic approach to identify and reduce the sources of these chemicals so that we can ensure that tap water is clean.”

PFAS chemicals were detected in drinking water from Martinsburg’s Big Springs well, which has since been shut down. Federal agencies are now performing an exposure assessment of households impacted by PFAS in their drinking water. PFAS chemicals in this area were from firefighting foam used at the Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base.

Hansen says action at the state level is needed because federal officials have not developed water quality standards.