CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Valley View is a slick bimonthly magazine focusing on Putnam County. Its editor solicited me to do the cover story and related photography for their inaugural issue in August 2013, "Our Most Valuable Resource." They blurbed it: "A Hurricane resident urges thoughtful stewardship of our plentiful water." (Contact me at ...@daneagle.com and I will send you a reformatted .pdf copy.)
The recent atrocity committed upon the Elk River has no doubt awakened a lot of folks to the fact that when your water supply becomes toxic, you are truly up the creek.
That debacle lasted only a few days. Imagine what would happen if the damage wrought by that storage tank negligence had been permanent? All government facilities closed. Businesses moving outside the area affected or closing for good. Property values dropping below zero because no one wants any part of a toxic waste dump, even if you were giving it away.
As the owner of a sign and printing business, I have years of experience managing flammable and fatal-if-ingested chemicals. Granted, the largest tank ever on my premises held only 275 gallons, but I was highly motivated to, as a leadership course in the Army taught me, "always have viable contingency plans."
Hence, acidic, caustic and petrochemicals were stored separately, and there was always an ample supply of suitable empty containers to which contents of a leaking one could be transferred. Things especially dangerous were stored within a second, larger container.
Besides considerations for visitor, employee and my own personal safety, I am a skinflint who hates to see costly materials wasted. But the biggest motivator was that my family and I lived next door to and downhill from my business. I have always said that owners of coal mines, chemical plants and other potential polluters should have to do the same -- especially billionaires like the chemical company-owning Koch brothers who spend millions every year slandering West Virginia on TV and in other ads accusing us of having a "bad business climate" and being a "judicial hellhole."
Translation of the Koch diatribes: West Virginia has laws which limit "hooray for us and to hell with West Virginians!" environmental rapists like them dumping any scummy waste they want to into our soil, air and water.
And, hellishly for the Koches, their kith and kin, West Virginia's courts at least marginally enforce those laws. The Elk River incident should convince any reasonable person that our Legislature and courts need to do more, not less.