Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Bill that weakens some drinking water human health criteria clears Senate Judiciary

MORGANTOWN – A bill that includes some lower standards for toxins in drinking water won approval in Senate Judiciary Monday and heads to the full Senate.

The bill is HB 2382, a Department of Environmental Protection rules bundle. It includes a rule that’s been debated for two years dealing with human health criteria in waste discharge permits.

The bill contains a variety of rules. The one that’s been the subject of debate proposes to adopt 2015 EPA recommendations for 24 pollutants, 13 or 11 of which are less stringent than current standards: The number has been 13 but Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola told Judiciary the number is 11.

Back in 2018, DEP proposed to adopt EPA’s recommendations for 56 pollutants (that number also changed from 60 previously reported in other committees) that it regulates but the joint Rule Making Review Committee at the time bowed to the wishes of industry, represented by the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, which wanted more time to evaluate the standards and develop more state- and site-specific measures.

A working group has been working since June to develop criteria for the remaining 32 pollutants.

Mandirola told the committee, “We are trying to follow the science as best we can.” These were the 24 pollutants for which there was the most consensus among the stakeholders and DEP didn’t think it was its place to choose only the more stringent parameters.

They hope to have the other 32 recommendations ready by May, Mandirola said.

Among the factors that contribute to the criteria is human fish consumption, and the amount of toxins ingested in that way. Mandirola told the members that part of EPA’s 2015 update included a different way of calculating the toxin levels.

The previous method, he said, was bioconcentration – how much toxin the fish as accumulated from the water. The new method is called bioaccumulation and takes into account from such things as its food sources. Predatory fish, for example, eat smaller fish that also take in toxins. So bioaccumulation leads to more stringent criteria,

Asked what neighboring states are doing, Mandirola said Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia have adopted all 96 EPA recommendations, but Virginia uses a cancer-risk level 10 times higher than the other two states. Ketucky has had its rules in committee for several years and has done nothing.

Going right to the point, Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, asked Mandirola, “Are you OK with these rules?” Mandirola answered, “Yes sir, I am.”

Committee chair Charles Trump, R-Morgan, asked Mandirola if there’s anything in the rule that will jeopardize human health. Mandirola answered, “Not in my opinion, no.”

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, urged the senators to vote against the rule. “Any time you increase exposures to toxins and carcinogens you’re increasing risk to public health.” If the science is good enough for the 24 it should be good enough for remaining 32.

Sen. Richard Lindsay offered an amendment that would have removed the 11 less-stringent criteria from the rule but it failed in a show of hands. The bill then passed in a voice vote.

Amendment resolutions

The panel made quick work of two resolutions proposing constitutional amendments.

SCR 5 urges Congress to call an Article V convention of states to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution “that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”

It passed in a divided voice vote and goes to the Senate floor. Earlier in the day the full Senate adopted HCR 9, which will apply to Congress for an Article V convention just for term limits. No one in committee mentioned that the measures overlap.

The committee also approved SJR 10. It proposes to limit state legislative terms to six for delegates and three for senators, starting with terms beginning Jan. 1. 2025.

It passed unanimously and goes to Senate Finance. Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, voted against SCR 5 and said afterward he’s all for term limits. He supported this one because it doesn’t involve and Article V convention that could lead to a rewrite of the whole constitution.

Tweet @dbeardtdp Email