West Virginia is the most beautiful of the 50 states. I will stand by that statement forever. I am a little partial, I am from there. With all of it’s rugged beauty, fascinating history and some of the friendliest people in the country, I love saying I was born in the Mountain State. But not everyone sees the state as kindly as I do, and most really would rather pretend it doesn’t exist. Don’t believe me? Check out the national news from the last week. How much national attention was the WV chemical spill getting? Hardly anyone was talking about it. Sure there would be a random article here or there about how we need more regulations on chemical/coal mining or lots of politicians pointing fingers about who dropped the ball, but very little about the people this directly affected or about what can be done to help.
I would say 90% of my family still lives in the Charleston area of West Virginia. A lot of them were affected by this do not use water ban. Think for a moment about everything you use water for on a daily basis. You brush your teeth, wash your hands, take a shower, wash you clothes, cook, water plants, drink for you and your animals, ice. You get the idea. West Virginia could do none of those things. They said the water was only good for flushing toilets and putting out fires, but this chemical is flammable (not explosive thank goodness) so I’m not too sure how it would do putting out a house fire.
Sure the government helped ship in some water, mostly in tanker trucks with which you had to provide your own container. I don’t know about you, maybe you are a doomsday prepper, but I don’t have empty containers laying around that would hold enough water for my whole family. I do have milk jugs and apple juice containers, but they are all dirty and would need to be washed out before I could use them for water . Wait, no clean water to wash them out means, they are worthless. Not everyone has the money to go buy new containers just for this purpose. Hell some people didn’t have a way to get to one of the few water distribution sites to wait in line for hours for fresh water. This is America, fresh water should not be a problem here. We have so many charities and foundations raising money for poorer countries without fresh water but when it comes to our own they get a 2 second blurb on the 11 pm news about how there was an “unfortunate” chemical spill in “Virginia”, 300,000 without water. Now lets see more dresses from the Golden Globes and talk about who should or should not have worn what. That actually happened on my local news. They said one line about the catastrophe, actually said it was in Virginia and then moved on. UGH!!! This was my breaking point. Virginia and West Virginia have been separate states now for 150 (almost 151) years!!! I’m sorry that was not long enough for you to learn geography or history but seriously, one is a border state of where I live now and the other in not! You would think that would be easy enough for some people.
In all of this, my family was lucky. My Dad lives in a city right in the middle of the affected zone that has their own water intake and processing plant. That city water was safe. So everyone would just go to his house to shower, have clean clothes, wash out and fill up containers for drinking/cooking water. My sister has two very young children, I worry most about them. Kids don’t always understand not being able to do things that were part of normal everyday life before. I actually heard one woman in the store the other day say “What’s the big deal? Buy some sanitizer and come Clorox wipes and get over it. Bottled water is everywhere.” Good lord give me the patience not to slap this random stranger in the face with a chair. Bottled water and sanitizer are not available everywhere when everyone is in need of it. They ran out of dry shampoo, plastic utensils, paper and plastic cups, plates, bowls..everything! Yet no one is talking about it. Look up on Instagram or Twitter #wvchemleak and see what you find. It looks like scenes from a horror movie. There are some jokes out there, some people trying to be cute and some just showing the resilience of good strong people.
They have started lifting the ban on water slowly now. But they of course screwed that up as well. They sent out through media that the ban was lifted everywhere, then had to come back and say “just kidding!” we are doing it by zones and we will call you when you can start flushing your water pipes. Wait, what?? CNN, ABC and other major media networks cared so little about WV that they said the water ban was lifted 2 days ago?! I just looked at the map, there are still at least 150,000 people under the do not use ban. Stop being lazy and do your job. Clearly it’s not hard, I just did it. They also reported that FEMA brought in water even though most stores seemed to have plenty of bottled water on the shelves. Clearly they didn’t even speak with a single person that lives in that area. When stores got shipments of water there were lines out the door of people trying to buy them. And let’s be honest, West Virginia is not the richest state, not everyone has extra income to just go buy water whenever a new shipment comes in. FEMA should be bringing in water and Freedom industries should be footing the bill.
We have yet to hear anyone talk about how this will affect local wildlife. I don’t say that because only because I care about nature but I care about the livelihood of so many West Virginians. Many West Virginians hunt and fish to feed their families. If animals ingest this chemical that has been floating round in the river for a week, how will that affect their meat? Could someone get sick from consuming an animal that has been drinking this chemical? Will the animal survive or will it cause them to start migrating to find clean water? This is stuff that West Virginians will be facing.
Once the ban is lifted in their zone, home owners now have to run water just to get to the water that they hope will be good enough to use. You have to run your water for a period of time to flush the pipes. Well that’s not working for a lot of people. They are still smelling the chemical (which has a licorice odor) and they are even finding mud and dirt in the water as well as it can leave a crystallized residue on surfaces such as sinks and tubs. Really? That’s safe to drink?? They are starting to wonder if this chemical has corroded pipes, hence the dirt and debris. I have a feeling this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
The water company has already said it can not adjust peoples water bills for this. They will give a credit for 1,000 gallons which “should” cover the cost of flushing your system but what if it doesn’t? Freedom Industries has not made any statement and doesn’t seem to care that hundreds of thousands of people are being put in this situation. It’s disgusting and with out national attention I fear that they may not do anything about it. If you don’t have the whole nation looking at you like you are the scum that you are, then why would they fix something they so clearly don’t care about.
Some people I know would have left the area for the last week, saying it’s a perfect time for a vacation. But because there were dots of places in the middle of the mess that actually had usable water some schools were still open, even if all of their residents did not have working water. I wonder how well that went over. I remember the kid in high school that didn’t shower. He was not welcomed with open arms. Can you imagine what it is like for these kids? Luckily most schools are closed, all restaurants are closed, a lot of people are now not working. This can’t be good. I feel for these people. My family and those I don’t know. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be going through this and basically have the rest of the country say “oh well, sucks to be you”.
I hope someone steps up soon and makes Freedom industries pay for the mess they have caused. I wish the rest of the country would realize that this is not something we should ignore. I was looking for an organization that was doing something to help to put at the end of this post in case anyone wanted to donate in anyway, but there are none. NONE. Well I take that back, the WVU baseball team was collecting donations of bottled water, liquid baby formula, plastic/paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, microwavable meals but that was three days ago. I am sure there are other more local, small groups doing things to help, but nothing on a national level. The fact that most of the help is coming from within the state shows exactly what kind of people live in WV. Kind, caring, compassionate, always willing to help a neighbor even if that neighbor is a stranger. That’s part of what makes it “almost heaven”, too bad they are going through hell right now.
PS~ I wanted to add that since I finished this post a new alert has come up. They are now telling women that are pregnant that they should NOT use the water even if they are in a zone where the ban has been lifted. As if pregnant women don’t have anything else to worry about now they have to worry what their water may do to their unborn children. I have no words. This is out of control.