Senate to hold hearings on W.Va. chemical spill

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the Senate will hold hearings on the West Virginia chemical spill that left 300,000 residents without clean water.

Following a briefing on climate change initiatives, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee commented on the chemical spill.

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"We are going to have two hearings on this," Boxer told reporters. "We will have a hearing in early February on the spill itself and then we are going to do more on chemical safety reforms."

Boxer added that reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act is "really important."

"We need to make sure that we identify dangerous chemicals and are making progress on chemical reforms," Boxer said on Tuesday.

Green groups said little is known about the coal-cleaning chemical, which spilled into the Elk River nearly five days ago.

"No one knows what the health risks are of the chemical involved in the spill," Jeff Gohringer of the League of Conservation Voters told The Hill on Monday.

"There are no documents on the short or long term effects and less is known about the ecological impacts. At the most basic level it shows we need to update outdated toxic chemical laws."

House Democrats are calling for a hearing of their own on the chemical spill.

On Monday, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) called on a House Energy and Commerce subpanel to hold a hearing examining the chemical contamination and possible reforms to the toxic substances legislation.

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