Comments due July 31 on Bureau of Public Health’s draft sourcewater protection rules

SB 373 requires the Bureau of Public Health to develop rules for water utility sourcewater protection planning. Unlike the DEP, the Bureau of Public Health has not chosen to publicize its role in implementing SB 373. The Bureau of Public Health published their draft rule on July 1st, with public comment due July 31st (comments can be submitted to ann.a.goldberg@wv.gov and william.j.tomey@wv.gov). There will not be a public hearing for these rules.

Many of the details about what utilities need to include in their sourcewater protection plan were described in detail by SB 373, including:

(1) A contingency plan that documents each public water utility’s planned response to contamination of its public surface water supply source …
(2) An examination and analysis of the public water system’s ability to isolate or divert contaminated waters from its surface water intake or groundwater supply, and the amount of raw water storage capacity for the public water system’s plant
(3) An examination and analysis of the public water system’s existing ability to switch to an alternative water source or intake in the event of contamination of its primary water source
(4) An analysis and examination of the public water system’s existing ability to close its water intake in the event the system is advised that its primary water source has become contaminated due to a spill or release into a stream, and the duration of time it can keep that water intake closed without creating a public
health emergency …
(6) An analysis and examination of the public water system’s existing available storage capacity on its system, how its available storage capacity compares to the public water system’s normal daily usage and whether the public water system’s existing available storage capacity can be effectively utilized to minimize the threat of contamination to its system
(7)The calculated level of unaccounted for water experienced by the public water system for each surface water intake …
(8) A list of the potential sources of significant contamination contained within the zone of critical concern as provided by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Bureau for Public Health and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management …
(9) If the public water utility’s water supply plant is served by a single-source intake to a surface water source of supply or a surface water influenced source of supply, the submitted plan shall also include an examination and analysis of the technical and economic feasibility of each of the following options to provide continued safe and reliable public water service in the event its primary source of supply is detrimentally affected by contamination, release, spill event or other reason:
(A)Constructing or establishing a secondary or backup intake…
(B)Constructing additional raw water storage capacity and/or treated water storage capacity, to provide at least two days of system storage,…
(C) Creating or constructing interconnections between the public water system with other plants on the public water utility system or another public water system…
(D) Any other alternative …
(E) If one or more alternatives set forth in paragraphs (A) through (D) of this subdivision is determined to be technologically or economically feasible, the public water utility shall submit an analysis of the comparative costs, risks and benefits of implementing each of the described alternatives
(10) A management plan that identifies specific activities that will be pursued by the public water utility, in cooperation and in concert with the Bureau for Public Health, local health departments, local emergency responders, local emergency planning committee, and other state, county or local agencies and organizations to protect its source water supply from contamination …
(11) A communications plan that documents the manner in which the public water utility, working in concert with state and local emergency response agencies, shall notify the local health agencies and the public of the initial spill or contamination event and provide updated information related to any contamination or impairment of the source water supply or the system’s drinking water supply,…
(12) A complete and comprehensive list of the potential sources of significant contamination contained within the zone of critical concern …
(13) An examination of the technical and economic feasibility of implementing an early warning monitoring system

In the Bureau of Public Health’s draft rule, two of the most important details of implementation were left vague. Regarding the role of public input in creating sourcewater protection plans, the draft rule merely states that, “[e]fforts shall be made by the water utility to inform and engage the public, local governments, local emergency planners, local health departments and affected residents at all levels of the development of the protection plan.” There is also nothing in the draft rules that indicate what criteria the Bureau of Public Health will use in reviewing the plans to determine whether the utility has provided a sufficient and accurate analysis.

These BPH omissions would, of course, be less troubling if we had received any indication over the past six months that WV American Water is actually interested in engaging productively with the public and/or changing any of its practices or emergency planning protocols in response to the water crisis. Instead, it looks like the Bureau of Public Health is setting itself up to enable WV American Water to submit a plan that complies with the letter of SB 373 but arrives at the conclusion that it is not economically feasible to make any meaningful changes.

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