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W.Va. officials say 80 unfit tanks in critical zones

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says of the 1,100 above-ground storage tanks failing inspection, 80 are located in “zones of critical concern” or contain substances hazardous to human health.

Officials are waiting on inspection certifications for another 20,000 tanks, of which 1,400 are considered priorities due to their location or contents.

Kelley Gillenwater, spokeswoman for the DEP, said the department has received about 30,000 inspection certifications out of 50,000 above-ground storage tanks registered with the state.

Of the 1,100 tanks labeled “not fit for use, ” 200 have already been taken out of service, and officials have focused on those tanks which are located near water sources or contain hazardous chemicals.

Official are trying to determine why those tanks failed inspection. On Tuesday, the department sent out nine certified letters to the owners of about two-dozen tanks.

“We are requesting additional information from tank owners about those tanks that did not pass inspection,” she said. “We want copies of the complete reports and any tests that were done as part of the inspections.”

Gillenwater said officials also are asking the tank owners to submit plans for removing those tanks from service until they can be replaced or repaired.

Gillenwater said the inspection certifications do not give a clear indication of why the tanks did not pass inspection.

“It could be something as simple as the tank isn’t painted to an active hole,” she said.

Tank owners will have 15 days from receipt of the letter to respond, Gillenwater said. More certified letters will be sent out today and Thursday.

The West Virginia Legislature last year approved a law requiring registration and inspection of all above-ground storage tanks after a chemical spill in January 2014 near Charleston fouled drinking water for more than 300,000 residents.

Senate Bill 373, the Water Resource Protection Act, requires registration and inspection of any tank holding 1,320 gallons or more of liquid, that is 90 percent above-ground and has been in a fixed location for more than 60 days. Officials have estimated as many as 80,000 above-ground storage tanks meet those requirements.

The law required all tanks to be registered in October of last year and for all inspection certifications to be filed with the state at the beginning of 2015. DEP officials have been working with tank owners to complete registrations and inspections because of some confusion over the requirements.

Businesses also have complained the law double-regulates tanks in the oil and gas industry and places an undo financial burden on small companies, even if their tanks contain only water or brine.

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