Spill report shows the need for due diligence

A Daily Mail editorial from the Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The final report by federal investigators on the Freedom Industries chemical spill that fouled the area’s drinking water for weeks confirmed what many observers already knew: Laws and regulations to assure public safety don’t work when the operators don’t follow the rules or any other basic safe operating procedures.

“[The] U.S. Chemical Safety Board experts proposed precious few formal, concrete recommendations for avoiding a repeat of the disaster — and aimed none of the proposals they did come up with at federal, state or local agencies that regulate companies that store dangerous chemicals near public drinking water supplies or at the utilities citizens rely on to provide them with safe water,” the Gazette-Mail’s Ken Ward Jr. reported Thursday.

Since the CSB didn’t offer concrete recommendations, the Daily Mail Opinion page will.

If you are the owner/operator of tanks that can leak hazardous substances and contaminate the region’s water supply, operate safely and responsibly. Maintain your tanks, follow safety rules and guidelines, develop and follow spill prevention plans and be a responsible operator.

 If you are a utility company with the responsibility of providing safe drinking water to the community, conduct regular risk assessments to determine what hazards are nearby. Pay particular attention to decrepit, poorly maintained chemical tank farms just a mile and a half upstream of your only water intake. Conduct a friendly visit to the facility and ask for a tour, find out what chemicals are stored and express concerns — on behalf of yourself, your shareholders and especially your customers — on the lackadaisical manner the chemical tank farm seems to operate.

If you are part of an emergency response or regulatory agency and you receive regular compliance forms about potentially hazardous facilities, review the forms before filing them away. Make time to visit the facilities. Consider how you would respond to an emergency there, and talk with the operators of any concerns you have. If you are overburdened and don’t have time or resources to conduct such checks, alert your management.

These are common-sense measures that could have taken place — should have taken place under existing law — that could have prevented the Freedom Industries spill and the community’s water contamination.

Whenever a big accident happens, there is a cry for more laws, more regulations, more action. How about all involved organizations simply follow existing rules and make sure they operate safely, responsibly and conscientiously and spare everyone unnecessary risks, problems and costs?

See more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail. 

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