CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Why? That is the question we as a community have been asking the last several days. Why has our water been poisoned? Why has a chemical storage facility been allowed to store a virtually unknown chemical right above the river intake for the water company that provides water for 300,000 residents of nine counties? Why was the leak not properly reported in a timely manner? Why were there no laws in place to evaluate and better regulate such facilities?
Political grandstanding will set in soon. Blame and finger pointing will further some careers and undermine others. The news cycle will spin over to a new scandal or controversy, whether it is in New Jersey or Washington, D.C. When the news crews leave, we will be left with the remainder of the mess -- the down and dirty remnants of this contamination and the corruption that allowed it to happen.
My sister is five months pregnant, and both she and my mother showered and drank the water before the spill was announced to the public. My mother and sister had seven hours of drinking, showering, and clothes washing between the time of the initial leak and the announcement being made to the general public via local news stations. Seven hours of exposure and contamination. Not only is this terrifying, it is totally unacceptable.
Freedom Industries seeped a toxic chemical into the supply network for at least a day before residents discovered the leak when they complained of the smell.
My entire immediate family has been affected by this water contamination. There is not one home in my extended family that has safe, clean water. We have traveled to friends in outlying counties to shower, wash clothes, and refill our water supplies. We have spent easily $300 on water and paper supplies because we cannot wash dishes.
Fortunately, my family has the economic ability to purchase bottled water. Additionally, we have nurses in the family and Internet access to research and discern all the data and information that has trickled out in the days following the spill. Unfortunately, not all West Virginians have these options. Instead, the people of West Virginia have the wisdom and knowledge to work the land and be self-sufficient.
With our history of industrial development and then abandonment by large absentee landlords, we have grown accustomed to undertaking the hardships that come with industry. West Virginia is filled with some of the most intelligent people I have met. Going out in search of water, I have seen the best in people -- as tends to happen in all emergencies around here. West Virginia has the kindest, most resilient people.
No matter how resilient the people are, the effects of this water crisis are going to be farther reaching than we can guess right now.