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W.Va. DEP finds more chemical tanks near water

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia inspectors have discovered 600 more above-ground chemical storage tanks located near public drinking-water supplies, pushing their current inventory to more than 1,600 such tanks, according to data made public Thursday.

The Department of Environmental Protection for the first time released lists of storage tanks that could be subject to new rules if lawmakers pass legislation drawn up in response to the January chemical leak on the Elk River.

DEP officials cautioned that they could end up with a final inventory showing even more storage tanks located in or near the “zone of critical concern” near public water-supply intakes.

“These lists obviously are not meant to be an official inventory of [above-ground storage tanks] in the state,” agency spokesman Tom Aluise said in an email message. “They’re fluid documents and will change.”

DEP inspectors are still visiting more than 100 sites they believe have tanks located near drinking-water intakes, and plan to examine a much larger number — 600 facilities with an estimated 3,000 tanks — to confirm locations, double-check the number of tanks and examine the tank contents.

“We’re making good progress,” said Scott Mandirola, director of the DEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management, “but we didn’t have an easy way to figure this out, knowing where all these are.”

After the Jan. 9 leak of Crude MCHM at Freedom Industries contaminated the drinking-water supply for 300,000 West Virginians, the DEP began putting together an inventory of above-ground chemical storage tanks across the state. They looked at water-pollution permit information, compared that to mapping data that pinpoint water-intake locations, and then went through permit files to identify facilities with plans showing storage tanks…

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