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UPDATE: Two appointments made to commission tasked with studying chemical spill bill

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UPDATE, Sept. 1:

Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, appointed Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, to the commission. Stacey Ruckle, spokeswoman for Miley, said he made the appointment about two weeks ago.

Original Story, Aug. 29:

Senate Bill 373, a bill drafted in response to the Jan. 9 chemical leak, establishes a commission to do studies and report back to the Legislature.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, made the first appointment to that board on Aug. 29. Kessler appointed Dr. Rahul Gupta, Executive Director of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department, to the Public Water System Supply Study Commission.

“Dr. Gupta has been involved in this issue since the January 9 chemical leak in Charleston that left nearly 300,000 residents with contaminated drinking water,” Kessler said in a press release. “Dr. Gupta will be an excellent voice on the commission regarding public health and protecting the state's water resources. I am pleased he accepted the appointment and trust that his input will be invaluable to the commission.”

The Commission will report back to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance on the effectiveness of the legislation, as well as suggestions to improve the infrastructure of existing public water systems and to pursue other measures designed to protect the integrity of public water service.

“I am honored to be appointed by Senate President Kessler to the study commission,” Gupta said a news release. “I believe that the safety and security of our water is critical and in the best public interest of our state. I look forward to serving on the commission and working to protect the health of all West Virginians.”

The study commission is to consist of twelve members: four members appointed by the Governor, one representative designated by the Rural Water Association, the Municipal League, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Bureau for Public Health, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, a non-voting member appointed by the Senate President and a non-voting member appointed by the Speaker of the House.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has yet to make appointments to the board.

Advocates for a Safe Water System submitted recommendations to Tomblin on Aug. 25 regarding the four appointments he is required to make to fill open seats. One of the group's recommendations was Gupta.

Reports by the commission shall be submitted to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance on or before Dec. 15 of each year, beginning this year.

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