West Virginia Chemical Spill Spotlights Weak Safeguards for Nation’s Water Systems

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NRDC Water Expert: “Vast Majority Vulnerable to Pollutants”


WASHINGTON (February 4, 2014) -- The massive Elk River contamination in West Virginia last month highlighted a serious public health threat that requires systematic new safeguards in order to prevent similar accidents around the country, Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health & food at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told a congressional subcommittee today.

The January incident, which tainted the drinking water supply of more than 300,000 people down river from a chemical storage facility, exposed "the many holes we have in current federal environmental laws," he said, citing the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act. 

"There are likely hundreds of other water companies, large and small, using surface water that simply cannot deal with a significant spill, release, or other major pollution in their watershed," Olson said. “The vast majority of water systems do not use…modern technology, leaving them vulnerable to spills and other pollutants from upstream sources.”

A public health expert on food and water, Olson testified today before the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at

News Source : West Virginia Chemical Spill Spotlights Weak Safeguards for Nation’s Water Systems

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