West Virginia Delegates call for Clean Drinking Water Legislation

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – West Virginia delegates are taking action to address pollution in drinking water from the chemicals depicted in the recently released feature film “Dark Waters.” The movie chronicles the deaths of West Virginians caused by Dupont, which discharged toxic chemicals without regulation, before being held accountable in court.

Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia) and colleagues in the House of Delegates will be sponsoring a bill to protect West Virginians from this pollution, in order to avoid future human health impacts and costly lawsuits. The bill will require the identification of sources of these chemicals so that contamination of rivers and streams used as drinking water sources can be stopped. It will also require the development of science-based clean drinking water standards that public water systems will need to meet to keep their customers safe.

The legislation will address a variety of toxic chemicals, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. These chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body, meaning they do not break down and can accumulate over time.

Delegate Hansen, the lead sponsor of the new bill, said “We owe it to the people who were sickened, and to the family members of those who were killed, to properly regulate these toxic chemicals. We’re taking a systematic approach to identify and reduce the sources of these chemicals so that we can ensure that tap water is clean.”

Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha), stated: “After the 2014 Freedom Industries spill, the district I represent saw many businesses forced to close their doors due to the irresponsible business practices of others. Some of those doors have unfortunately never reopened. You cannot tell me that we are forced to choose between economic growth and clean water. That’s a lie. Economic growth…any growth requires clean, safe water.”

Delegate John Doyle (D-Jefferson) added that, whether conservative, moderate or liberal, “citizens want clean drinking water. From Harpers Ferry to Huntington and from Weirton to Welch, clean tap water tops the charts on every survey I’ve seen.”

Delegates will also re-introduce House Joint Resolution 25, which was first introduced in the 2019 legislative session. This constitutional amendment adds a section to the West Virginia Bill of Rights that states: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment.” A total of 32 of the 100 delegates co-sponsored this resolution.

Similar provisions are in the Pennsylvania and Montana constitutions. If West Virginia had such a provision in its Bill of Rights, citizens could have held Dupont accountable much sooner, saving numerous lives.

At the December 16 press conference, speakers will include Delegates Hansen, Doyle, and Pushkin; Tracy Danzey, who lost her leg and part of her hip due to these chemicals; West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser; and Maya van Rossum, author of the book “The Green Amendment.”

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