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West Virginia bill signed to regulate storage tanks after spill

(Reuters) - West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday signed a bill regulating above-ground chemical storage tanks, a measure prompted by a spill in January that tainted water supplies for some 300,000 people.

The new law requires above-ground tanks in critical areas near public water supplies to be registered with the state Department of Environmental Protection, which will perform annual inspections.

"The Elk River chemical spill has made us all - in our communities and across our nation - take a closer look at our infrastructure, especially in areas of critical concern around our waterways," said Tomblin, a Democrat, in a statement.

The January 9 spill of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or crude MCHM, into the Elk River at the state capital Charleston prompted West Virginia to ban some 300,000 people from drinking or bathing in tap water. The ban lasted up to 10 days for some residents.

The spill from a Freedom Industries tank occurred about a mile upriver from the area's main water plant, West Virginia American Water, a unit of American Water Works Company Inc. Crude MCHM is used in coal processing.

The new law calls for the Bureau for Public Health to contact federal agencies to help assess potential long-term health effects associated with the spill.

The bill also requires West Virginia American Water to install an early monitoring system at its Elk River plant. It also says water utilities must have a written plan for spills in the water supply.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama)

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