The Times West Virginian

February 22, 2014

Manchin: Vulnerability in water system can be fixed

By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Several issues surrounding West Virginia were discussed by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Friday.

During a Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Erickson Alumni Center, the Farmington native discussed with business representatives different issues that impact West Virginia.

Manchin addressed issues from the state’s water sources to minimum wage.

Dealing with the chemical leak that occurred in the Elk River in January, Manchin said West Virginia has to use this opportunity to fix the state’s water system.

“The water system, we can fix it,” he said. “This is a great opportunity. We were vulnerable and didn’t even know it.”

Manchin said he had no idea that one inlet was serving 300,000 customers with water.

“Not one person died and not one person came down with a critical illness,” he said.

In making sure a leak like this doesn’t happen again, Manchin suggested that the state take inventory on its water systems and backup systems.

“This is a great wakeup call for us,” he said. “We should accept it as that and move forward.”

As for minimum wage, Manchin told his beliefs on the issue.

In Washington, D.C., President Barrack Obama is pushing efforts to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Manchin said he believes no one who works full-time in the United States should live in poverty.

“No way, in any shape or form, should a person who gives 40 hours a week be below the poverty guidelines in this country,” he said. “Democrats and Republicans mostly agree with that.”

After Manchin delivered his remarks, an open forum took place where the business representatives asked Manchin questions.

One member of the chamber discussed transportation in Morgantown and how it is one of the city’s greatest problems. Funding to create and repair roads has been an issue in Morgantown.

Manchin said in order to get funding successfully, the city needs to priorize one problem at a time and take it to the Capitol. He also said bringing organizations in for backup support would help get funding.

“If infrastructure is your highest priority, you will get more attention if you go to either Charleston or Washington, D.C. By identifying one at a time, they will help you,” Manchin said.

Another discussion was about energy. Manchin said using coal for energy is not going away.

He said arguments about coal in the United States polluting the air is not as bad as the rest of the world.

“Coal is going to be used for the next 20 years,” he said. “The country depends on it. The system depends on it.”

Talking at the chamber luncheon was one of the ending stops of Manchin’s travels across the state to discuss several issues that both West Virginia and the nation are facing.

Email Emily Gallagher at egallagher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.