WASHINGTON — Chemical storage facilities would be required to establish procedures for “immediately” notifying nearby water systems after discovering a spill that could harm water supplies, under legislation unanimously approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last week, according to a press release.

S. 1961, the “Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act,” is the first federal legislation to advance in response to January’s Elk River chemical spill that contaminated the drinking water supplies of Charleston, W.V., the release noted.

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The measure would direct states to establish new oversight and inspection programs for chemical storage facilities that could threaten water systems and require these storage facilities to meet minimum leak detection, spill control and employee training standards, reported the release.

In addition to the requirement that downstream utilities be quickly notified following a potentially harmful spill, continued the release, other suggestions from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) incorporated by the EPW Committee include streamlining procedures for how chemical inventory information would be made available to nearby water systems and clarifying that a water utility would not be required to use new authority to commence a Safe Drinking Water Act civil action against an upstream chemical facility which it believes could pose a threat to water supplies.

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According to the release, while the committee-passed version of S. 1961 is much improved, AMWA will continue to seek additional changes, such as more clearly defining chemical storage facilities subject to the new state-implemented regulations and allowing local water systems to recover costs associated with spill response activities from chemical plant owners and operators.

Read the full release here.