Thursday, January 16, 2014

No Bathing Allowed

(Cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (January 14, 2014)and featured at  MCCLATCHYDC.)

So, people in Charleston,West Virginia are still unable to use their tap water for drinking, cooking, and bathing because of a chemical leak from an underground storage tank at Freedom Industries.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The state Department of Environmental Protection cited Freedom Industries for the odor caused by the leak and said the company had violated water and air standards by allowing the spill. The chemical emits a faint licorice-like odor, which wafted over Charleston on Friday night.

The environmental agency disputed Freedom Industries’ contention that the company took steps to stop the leak as soon as it was discovered Thursday morning. The agency said the company had taken no steps to contain the spill when inspectors arrived around 11 a.m. Thursday in response to complaints from residents of a noxious odor.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said federal authorities had opened an investigation into the cause of the spill, which affected residents of Charleston, in Kanawha County, and the counties of Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane.

"We will determine what caused it and take whatever action is appropriate based on the evidence we uncover," Goodwin said.

There are a couple of things that are wrong about this picture.  First, of course, is that apparently there are some problems with over-lapping jurisdiction amongst both the federal and state agencies. 

The second thing that struck me about this disaster comes from a brief television news story from ABC.  This facility hasn't been inspected since 1991.  That's right, no inspection from any agency on either the state or federal level in 23 years.  No one has bothered to check the state of tanks holding chemicals used to treat coal.  Think there just might be some connection between the industry and the hands-off approach by the government(s)?


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