Looking back, 10,000 gallons of the chemical Crude MCHM found its way from the Freedom Industries tank farm into the Elk River on Jan. 9 and subsequently tainted our water supply, altering our lives dramatically. It is a curse that somehow refuses to go away.
This nightmare leaves us with little more factual consensus of cause and effect and clear remedial path forward today than the day the disaster occurred.
The ongoing 'point', 'counterpoint' continues with a steady stream of conflicting professional opinions. A daily confliction of do's and don't's regarding known and unknown effects of Crude MCHM adds to the growing confusion, frustration and anger of those directly affected. The Charleston Gazette aptly captioned this conflict in a Jan. 30 article by David Gutman and Ken Ward Jr. as "Water war of words".
Our concerns span not only the resolution of the current problem but also the assurance that the appropriate intellectual capital is sought and a comprehensive evaluation is made to take the necessary action to safeguard against this ever happening again.
Assessments of the spill and the conflicting opinions leave us with a sense of unease suggesting that we still do not fully understand the complexities and characteristics of Crude MCHM. For example, what, if any, are the lingering health and environmental risk concerns over time? Given our flushing directive, should we be concerned with the possibility of any trace residue that may have accumulated in pipes? Can crude MCHM residue react with other residue that may have accumulated? Is there or should there be a home testing kit that would expose any specific problems?
We insist on being unequivocally assured that we are safe and that our families are safe and that crude MCHM and the reaction of it to other substances will not adversely affect our health and wellbeing. This is a reasonable expectation.
The chemical and extraction industries together with state government officials have shared a symbiotic relationship over many decades that, at times, has been at the expense of the general public and the environment. Likewise, our passivity has not served us well.
Political and extraction industry efforts to curb the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency frequently run counter to the best interests of the general populace. Meanwhile mountaintops, rivers and streams bear the scars of abuse from the quid pro quo relationship between the chemical and extraction industries on the one hand and state government on the other.
To echo the sentiment that many have already expressed, let the word go forth that this is a wake-up call that will not be relegated to the status of "yesterday's news."
To the governor, legislators, chemical and extraction industry leaders, state and federal agencies and West Virginia American Water Company: Be aware that we are and will continue to be watching and listening very carefully. Our unified message to you is "Get it right!"
Heed not the self-serving lobbyists that frequent the legislative chambers at the state Capitol, who come bearing gifts other than gratitude. Heed instead the interests of those 300,000 constituents who continue to be impacted by this incident plus the countless other West Virginians across the state who desire to know that your first allegiance is to them as well.
Meanwhile, it's off again today to purchase yet another supply of safe drinking water. It is day 27 as I write this, and the mound of empty plastic containers continues to accumulate in a corner of my garage.Gossard is a retired supply chain manager at Union Carbide.