Public hearing held on West Virginia water quality standards

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — As parts of West Virginia flood, the state’s water quality standards are up for debate in the legislature.

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee held their first public hearing of the year.

Like so many public events these days, the public hearing was virtual – and came with some unexpected technical problems as more than 30 West Virginians lined up to comment on the proposed changes.

“I think it’s very important for all of us to make sure that the public has access to all of the lawmakers, unfortunately with COVID-19 we can’t open the doors and have as many people here as we like,” said House Judiciary Chair Del. Moore Capito, (R) Kanawha.

The bill – HB 2389 would authorize the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to make 24 updates to the state’s human health criteria within its water quality standards.

Environmental activists, tourism enthusiasts, and others argue the changes pose a risk to human health because half of them lower thresholds for things like these carcinogens and toxins.

“We need clean potable water for all West Virginians, it’s a human right,” said Alexander Deem.

Del. Geoff Foster, (R) Putnam, is the bill’s lead sponsor.

He says West Virginia’s current regulations are more than adequate to safeguard the state’s water supply.

“What many people don’t know is we’re a category A water source,” said Foster.

Still, critics say easing quality standards will benefit industry, especially the oil and gas industry which backs the measure.

“Opponents to the changes need to show their work and demonstrate why the criteria would not be safe and they haven’t done that,” said Anthony Mullins with the Spilman Thomas & Battle law firm.

But for many who called into the hearing, clean water, and profitable industry don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The House Judiciary Committee now needs to vote on HB 2389 before it goes to the floor.

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