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Gaps In Regulation And Oversight Left West Virginia Chemical Spill Site Uninspected For 22 Years

The essential critique of government is this: Government has the resources to listen to every phone call and to fingerbang every airline passenger, but not the resources to occasionally inspect dangerous waste areas.


How did 300,000 West Virginia residents end up without clean water for five days and counting? A chain of incomplete regulations and bureaucratic hand-offs allowed the massive chemical leak to happen without notice, largely on nobody’s watch, the Wall Street Journal reports.

An estimated 7500 gallons of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, called MCHM, leaked into the Elk River in West Virginia from a 48,000 gallon tank. The leak was discovered last Thursday, resulting in a do-not-use order for water in nine counties and the state capital.

According to the WSJ, the tank and storage facility, owned by Freedom Industries, was “subject to almost no state and local monitoring.” Federal programs do not currently track MCHM closely, and a state regulator told the WSJ that environmental inspectors hadn’t visited the site since 1991.

A 23-year gap in oversight could indeed leave a growing hole in the tank unnoticed. As for the chemical MCHM, regulation…

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