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Saturday, January 10, 2015

on paying attention to our watersheds

"Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the massive Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia, in which a leak at a coal industry facility led to the contamination of drinking water for nine counties and hundreds of thousands of people. While evidence of Freedom Industries' culpability in the crisis continues to mount, local residents and environmental advocates fear that not enough has been done to prevent a similar disaster in the future. The January 9, 2014 spill of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM)—a chemical foam used to wash coal—from a Freedom Industries chemical storage tank occurred just 1.5 miles from a water treatment and distribution plant, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. For 4 to 9 days, about 300,000 West Virginia residents were ordered not to use the public water supply. Noting that "one indicator of the contaminated water is the odor of the water," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin warned at the time: "Please don't drink, don't wash with, don't do anything with the water."[...]
"Right now, politicians, industry, and activists all share the same question: Will people stay involved?" writes Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. "Maintaining drinking water protections will depend on people showing up. The special interests who would dismantle our water protections know this. They know when the crisis has passed, and people go back to attending to their everyday lives—it’s easy to lose sight of what’s at stake. Out of sight, out of mind. We know from history, water protections will backslide when we’re not paying attention."''