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Tomblin names water commission members

With the clock ticking and its first report due in mid-December, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Thursday finally named members to serve on the new state Public Water System Supply Commission set up as part of legislation passed in the wake of the January chemical spill that contaminated the Elk River.

Tomblin appointed engineer Rick Roberts of the firm E.L. Robinson Engineering, Canaan Valley Institute hydrologist Ed Watson, West Virginia University public health professor Mike McCawley, and former state Department of Environmental Protection environmental advocate Pam Nixon to four open slots on the commission.

The four join Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, who was appointed by House Speaker Tim Miley; and Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Rahul Gupta, who was appointed by Senate President Jeff Kessler.

The 12-member commission also includes officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Bureau for Public Health, the Division of Homeland Security, the state Public Service Commission, and representatives of the Municipal League and the Rural Water Association.

In a press release, Tomblin said that he had named Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato as chairman of the commission and asked Gianato to organize the panel’s first meeting.

Under the law, the commission is supposed to review and assess new source water protection plans being submitted by public water systems, examine the effectiveness of SB 373, and study the extent of funding available for public water systems for projects to create alternative water sources in the event of a chemical spill.

Also, the commission is supposed to review a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board for the creation by state and local officials of a local chemical accident prevention program in the Kanawha Valley.

Lawmakers created the Public Water System Supply Commission as part of SB 373, the bill that contains new above-ground chemical storage tank regulatory requirements and forces the state’s drinking water systems to write new water protection plans. Tomblin signed the bill on April 1.

The commission’s first report is due to be provided to lawmakers by Dec. 15.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

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