Third WV House committee advances 'water bill' - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Third WV House committee advances 'water bill,' removes medical monitoring provision

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Although the House of Delegates Finance Committee discussed considerably fewer amendments for Senate Bill 373, more commonly known as the water bill, the discussion continued well into the evening hours.

The House committee met from about 5-7 p.m. March 3 to discuss the bill. 

During the two meetings, the bill was explained and committee members were able to ask questions as well as make amendments.

Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, offered an amendment to the bill that would have mandated all public water systems in the state conduct a feasibility study as well as install equipment that could be needed as a result of the early warning monitoring that was placed in the bill by the Finance committee.

The amendment was overwhelmingly objected, but Skaff made another amendment, proposing that all water systems be treated the same as far as requiring them to conduct feasibility studies. That amendment was adopted.

"I'm just asking we treat them all the same," he said. "Give them a chance to conduct feasibility studies."

Skaff's amendment that was adopted also eliminates an entire article of the bill, explaining the requirements for public water utilities that provide water to more than 100,000 customers be required to meet early warning monitoring system requirements. The amendment spoke solely to West Virginia American Water, who was represented at the committee meeting to oppose that section of the bill.

Laura Jordan, a spokeswoman for the water company, said the list of potential contaminants the water company would have to comply with were "impractical" and "unfeasible." Jordan said the testing for chemicals, required under the bill, were not required for any water system in the United States.

Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said the committee only heard from one source, WVAW, that the requirements to update systems and install more monitoring of chemicals would be impossible.

"I believe what we've heard tonight from one source is it's impossible to do what we're telling them to do," he said. "Within that, it may be appropriate to say if available you should do this but I would respectfully suggest technology advances everyday."

Perdue said eliminating the requirement could become an obstacle if future technology would allow a water company to test for such chemicals, but the amendment was still adopted to eliminate the need for WVAW to provide the monitoring to their water system.

Delegates Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, and John McCuskey, R-Kanawha, amended the bill in the House Judiciary Committee to add long-term medical monitoring.

However, the medical monitoring provision was stricken from the bill March 3 by the Finance Committee.

Delegates Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, and Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, made an amendment that eliminated the medical monitoring requirement in the bill, saying it would be fiscally irresponsible not knowing the amount of money that would be needed to fund such a system in the state's already limited budget.

Commissioner Letitia Tierney, with the Bureau for Public Health, said the medical monitoring section of the bill, although she was in favor of it, was probably not needed.

"I've testified before, we have one chance to get this right," Tierney said. "This is something we want to do with great thought and great care and with a panel of experts.

"It's likely the best way to go forward."

The amendment to eliminate the medical monitoring passed by a vote of 12-11.

Another amendment that eliminated the need for individual permits under DEP was adopted by the committee.

According to Delegate Kevin Craig, D-Cabell, someone building a house in what would be classified under the bill as a "zone of critical concern" already is required to register for a general permit, but sections of the bill would have made a person register for an individual permit as well.

The amendment was unanimously adopted.

The bill moves to the full House floor for and is scheduled for a second reading March 4.