WV 2014 chemical spill: Report offers analysis of aboveground storage tank registrations

A new report prepared by Downstream Strategies and West Virginia Rivers Coalition offers important analysis of initial aboveground storage tank registrations requested under Bill 373, a 2014 water protection law passed last year by the West Virginia Legislature.

Jan. 15, 2015 -- A new report prepared by the environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies and the nonprofit organization West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WVRC) offers important analysis of initial aboveground storage tank registrations requested under Bill 373, a 2014 water protection law passed last year by the West Virginia Legislature.

The study, titled "Aboveground Storage Tanks in West Virginia: A Snapshot," provides an analysis of the more than 47,000 tanks that were registered by mid-December, 2014, and was designed to help legislators, regulators, tank owners and operators, and the general public make the best decisions possible in the wake of last year's Elk River Chemical Spill (see "WV chemical spill shuts down capital city, water supplies").

"In a very visual way, we present specific data on the locations of tanks, types of substances they store, and types of industries that have registered the tanks," said Downstream Strategies President Evan Hansen.

Angie Rosser, WVRC executive director, added, "It's remarkable to see the number of tanks so close to rivers or streams. So while it's appropriate to look most closely at tanks closest to existing drinking water intakes, focusing protection efforts solely on those zones would miss thousands of tanks that could easily harm our water supplies."

Some of the major findings include:

  • Nearly half of the tanks are located within 1,000 feet of surface water.
  • About three quarters of the tanks are owned by the oil and gas industry.
  • Five of the six counties with the most tanks are clustered in the north-central section of the state -- Doddridge, Ritchie, Harrison, Lewis, and Gilmer Counties. Kanawha County has the fifth-most tanks.
  • Sixteen tanks contain 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), the chemical involved in contaminating the drinking water supply across a nine-county area of West Virginia in January 2014.
  • More than 1,100 tanks did not pass their initial inspections, and only 55 percent of registered tanks have been certified as fit for service.

"The good news is that for the first time, we have this data available about all tanks located across the state," said Hansen. "As the Legislature considers adopting new Aboveground Storage Tank rules, it can use the tank database to inform its decisions."

Rosser added, "A lot of tank owners told DEP it would be impossible to register and inspect their tanks by the deadlines, and to the Agency's credit, they stuck to the deadlines so that we would no longer be in the dark about where tanks are and the threat they pose. Now that the information is available, we have a clearer picture to help move us ahead in preventing leaky tanks from contaminating water supplies across the state."

See also:

"WV 2014 chemical spill: Groups host call to discuss bringing safe drinking water back to state"

"One year later: WV American Water reflects on Freedom Industries chemical spill"

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