SB 373′s water system study commission finally gets started

The Public Water System Supply Study Commission established by Senate Bill 373 met for the first time last week. The Commission is charged with:

(1) A review and assessment of the effectiveness and the quality of information contained in updated source water protection plans required for certain public water systems by the provisions of section nine-c, article one, chapter sixteen of this code;
(2) A review and assessment of the effectiveness of legislation enacted during the 2014 Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature, as it pertains to assisting public water systems in identifying and reacting or responding to identified potential sources of significant contamination, and increasing public awareness and public participation in the emergency planning and response process;
(3) The extent of available financing and funding alternatives which are available to existing public water systems to pursue projects which are designed to create alternate sources of supply or increased stability of supply in the event of a spill, release or contamination event which impairs the water system’s primary source of supply;
(4) A review and consideration of the recommendations of the U. S. Chemical Safety and Hazard and Investigation Board after its investigation of the Bayer CropScience incident of 2008; and
(5) Any recommendations or suggestions the study commission may offer to improve the infrastructure of existing public water systems, to provide safe and reliable sources of supplies, and to pursue other measures designed to protect the integrity of public water service.

The Commission has set up working groups to address each of these 5 subjects; the membership of the working groups is available on the Committee’s website.

There are already several organizations and people that are very knowledgeable about the issues that the Commission will study. People Concerned About Chemical Safety, for example, has long advocated for the adoption of the Chemical Safety Board’s recommended Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program; the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Downstream Strategies are experts in source water protection; and Fred Stottlemyer (former director of the Putnam PSD) and Joe Mullins have released a proposal for a public-private partnership to create an alternate source of water supply for the Kanawha Valley. Hopefully the Commission will take full advantage of the available local expertise.

The meetings of the Commission are open to the public. The working groups are not covered by the state’s Open Meetings Act and thus there is no requirement that they be public – although there is no reason that they shouldn’t be. The next full commission meeting is October 27th, 2014 at 10 a.m. in the Governor’s Conference Room.

The members of the Commission are: Jimmy Gianato (Director of Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; Commission chair); Mike Albert (Public Service Commission); Tim Ball (general manager of the Morgantown Utility Board); Letitia Tierney (Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health); Randy Huffman (Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection); Nancy Guthrie (Kanawha County Delegate); Rahul Gupta (Director of Kanawha-Charleston Health Department); Mike McCawley (WVU professor of public health); Rick Roberts (engineer from E.L. Robinson Engineering); Ed Watson (hydrologist from Canaan Valley Institute); Pam Nixon (citizen representative); and Amy Swann (Rural Water Association).

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