By TLB contributor Kattie Shumaker-Ellis
A month ago, on January 9th, a major chemical company caused a massive spill into the Elk River in West Virginia, leaving 300,000 people without water. The residents cannot drink the water, let alone take a bath. They cannot even boil the water to make it safe for them to drink. This has affected nine counties. Not long after, on February 2nd, millions of tons of coal sludge poured into the nearby Dan River.
Why are they just now doing something about this? The answers are laziness and unwillingness to spend the money to fix the problem. They claim the accident was caused this time by the cold weather. Further implying a lack of responsibility, Freedom Industries, cause of the spill, declared bankruptcy one week later. http://article.wn.com/view/2014/01/18/One_week_after_W_Va_toxic_spill_new_owner_of_Freedom_Industr/
One source, whom I have had the privilege to sit down and talk to, has told me this is not the first time it has happened. I asked this person, “Do you think there are other companies that are involved in this?” The answer was yes.
After doing many long hours of research, I found other information that leads back as far as five years. Another article said they had been dumping chemicals into the Elk River for years.
Another source said, “This happens all the time. The coal companies are using stuff here that would absolutely eat the skin off of your body. This time, it ended up in the water supply and the world knows about it now. But it happens all the time.” Read it here: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/22/3176161/west-virginia-poverty-pollution/
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has dispatched FEMA to assist West Virginia’s clean-up of Freedom Industries’ toxic chemical spill in January, which released 5,000 gallons by the specialty chemical producer of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the Kanawha Valley’s water treatment intake near Charleston. (Think: an above-ground swimming pool) West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tumbling declared it a statewide disaster late last week, mobilizing the National Guard to distribute bottled water throughout the afflicted areas. Supermarket shelves are, for the most part, dry.
In a state where 17.8 percent of the population lives in poverty and 47 percent of children live in low-income families, many West Virginians depend on jobs from the chemical or coal industries — the same industries responsible for polluting the state’s water. Coal mining in West Virginia, a state that in 2011 ranked 49th out of 50 in terms of median household income, supports more than 88,000 jobs, while the chemical industry supports about 12,000.
Any attempt to put strict regulation on those industries is therefore met with hostility from those whose families have for generations depended on the jobs to get by. Paula Clendenin, a lifelong West Virginia resident, said shortly after the spill, “Without that strict regulation, spills become more likely. If you keep people poor, you keep them desperate,” she added. “It’s a vicious cycle.”