General Assembly scraps Del. Sam Rasoul’s legislative fix to Tinker Creek spill

General Assembly scraps Del. Sam Rasoul’s legislative fix to Tinker Creek spill

RICHMOND — A bill by Del. Sam Rasoul to prevent chemical spills failed in a legislative subcommittee Wednesday.

Members of a House of Delegates subcommittee declined to act on Rasoul’s legislation stemming from a chemical spill in July that killed more than 40,000 fish in Tinker Creek.

The bill by the Roanoke Democrat would have required a secondary containment device on all above-ground chemical storage tanks holding 250 or more gallons of hazardous substances.

A puncture hole in a 275-gallon plastic storage tank located at Crop Production Services in Cloverdale caused approximately 165 gallons of an agriculture-use chemical called Termix 5301 to leak into Tinker Creek in July. If the tank had a secondary container, the spill may not have occurred, Rasoul argued.

The contamination of more than eight miles of the creek that flows through Botetourt and Roanoke counties and Roanoke caused what may be one of the worst fish kills in Virginia history, according to state officials. The spill, first detected July 29, resulted in the state advising people and pets to stay out of the creek from the vicinity of the Southern States Cooperative in Cloverdale downstream to the Roanoke River. That advisory was lifted Aug. 11 after further testing showed the chemical had dissipated.

“This was obviously devastating for the Roanoke Valley, so trying to find a way to protect our neighborhood is important to me,” Rasoul said.

Representatives from Crop Production Services took responsibility for the incident, which they believe may have been caused by vandalism. The company said it had moved such chemical tanks to a more secure location inside its building in Cloverdale.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a notice of violation to the company in October for an unpermitted discharge of pollutants to surface water. The matter is not yet resolved. Such cases typically result in a consent order that lays out fines and any other requirements to repair environmental damage.

The department in an update posted Tuesday said all cleanup efforts at the company’s property in Cloverdale have been completed, including removal of contaminated soil from the spill. A stormwater ditch and pond have been relined and put back into service, the statement said. The department also said Tuesday it is coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on plans to track Tinker Creek’s long-term recovery.

When Rasoul’s bill came up Wednesday in the House Counties, Cities and Towns subcommittee, several lobbyists representing business and farming interests spoke out against the proposal. No one spoke in favor of the bill.

Virginia Manufacturers Association President and CEO Brett Vassey estimated Rasoul’s proposal would require companies to update upward of 10,000 tanks. The proposed legislation would apply to new and old tanks so companies would have to retrofit their aging containers.

“We support what Del. Rasoul is trying to do, we just want to make sure we’re trying to do it in a really pragmatic way because the implication is so broad,” Vassey said.

Rasoul said he will continue discussing the issue with industry leaders and environmentalists in the hopes of presenting a new solution at a later date.  Read More >>