Selenium Bill in Senate – Contact Senators ASAP

West Virginia Environmental Council Action Alert
March 11, 2013        WVEC Alerts Archive

Selenium Bill in Senate – Contact Senators ASAP

Last week on Friday the House of Delegates passed HB 2579 the “selenium bill” by a vote of 99-0 and advanced the bill to the Senate.

The Senate has referred the bill – first to Energy, Industry & Mining Committee (EIM) then to Judiciary.  The Senate also has a “same as” version of the bill – SB 472.  However, it is most likely that they will consider the House bill.

If the full legislature passes this bill (the Governor has already said he would sign it), it paves the way for DEP to weaken toxic selenium water quality standards in WV streams.  In addition, it allows coal companies to get off the hook for treating the selenium added to state waters from their surface mining operations.

Background:  Selenium, a naturally occurring element found in many rocks and soils, is an antioxidant that is needed in VERY small amounts for good health.  But in SLIGHTLY larger amounts, selenium can be highly toxic.  In humans, it can cause hair loss, nail brittleness, fatigue and neurological problems such as numbness.  In the long term, selenium exposure can cause damage to the liver, the kidneys, and to the nervous and circulatory systems. People are exposed to toxic levels of selenium by eating contaminated fish or by drinking water that exceeds Safe Drinking Water Act threshold levels of 50 parts per billion.  So, because of bio-accumulation, humans cannot eat the fish.

Fish however, cannot tolerate selenium levels higher than 5 parts per billion, before exhibiting selenium impacts. Numerous studies and reports, including DEP’s own 2010 study have found alarming levels of selenium in fish downstream from large surface mines.  These studies also found gross deformities caused by selenium in all age classes of fish in the studies.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  Contact members of the WV Senate today – and all this week.  Ask them to OPPOSE HB 2579 / SB 472.  Contact information can be found at

Also:  If you believe in accountability, you can contact House of Delegate members and let them know how disappointed you are with their vote on HB 2579 Friday.

(Reminder:  “E-Day!” at the Capitol is this Thursday, March 14th from 9 AM till 3 PM.  Citizen lobbying is a huge part of why we continue to hold E-Day each year.  We have 20 environmental groups scheduled to participate with displays.  The Benefit & Awards Dinner will follow from 6 PM till 9 PM at the Woman’s Club of Charleston.)

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