The United States Congress is considering the first significant updating of the Toxic Substances Control Act in almost 40 years. The proposed legislation comes in response to the contamination of the water supply of more than 300,000 people in West Virginia.
The Act was passed in 1976 and regulates the chemicals that are used in commerce. Under the Act, the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with identifying chemicals in use and screening new chemicals being introduced. The goal is for the EPA to identify risks posed to the public by hazardous chemicals. Once a chemical is determined to pose an unreasonable risk, the EPA is to implement rules to govern its manufacture, distribution, storage, and other aspects of its use in industry.
In West Virginia, a chemical known as MCHM was being stored in tanks along the Elk River 1.5 miles upstream from the water intake of West Virginia American Water Company. The water system serves a population base of over 300,000 people. Storage tanks had been leaking and the chemical eventually made it into the river and into the water intakes. The storage tanks were old, in poor shape, and had not been inspected by the state environmental agency for many years.
The new law would establish standards for tens of thousands of chemicals that are currently not regulated, such as MCHM. The challenge for lawmakers is to determine what level of oversight to leave to the states. One version would allow states to continue to regulate as long as the regulation does not conflict with federal law. Lawmakers fear that commerce will be impeded by having a variety of differing standards from state to state. Environment-friendly states such as California are concerned with the potential for centralized federal oversight to ignore issues important to the states to move too slowly.
As evidenced by the spill in West Virginia, hazardous chemicals are present in our environments and we are not really aware of it. Exposure can happen in an instant. If you have been injured by exposure to a chemical, contact Tipp & Buley. We are experienced in personal injury lawsuits and will fight to see that you are compensated. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, call our Missoula law office at 406-389-4215 or visit our website.