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Tag Archives: West Virginia

The running joke about Chemical Valley is about its eventual demise. We all know something bad is going to happen here, when we drive by Belle and smell the chemical plants across the river, Union Carbide, and others, we all kind of live here knowing it’s a disaster waiting to happen – we figure that sometime in the future there will be dead bodies lying every where, it won’t be about clean water. We wonder when DuPont will implode, and the chemical cloud will come down the valley and we will die choking. But I guess it’s like living under a volcano. It spews out magma, a few people get hurt, stinks up the place but then the news goes away. You get used to keeping a wary eye while wondering when its going to full-on explode. I’ve always wondered how people felt when they lived next to a volcano. Is our volcano your volcano, our poisonous cloud your poisonous cloud, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, DC?

Possibly 12 million people are potentially exposed to “4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation by Freedom Industries whose storage facility was last inspected in 1991, and the source of the leak.” It occurred not from terrorism but ineptitude.

MCHM was released by two escapees from a Carl Hiassen novel. It affects, not merely 300,000 easily dismissed West Virginians, but if you count Cincinnati, Louisville, and all the population between there and the Gulf of Mexico you exponentiate to the millions.

Our nightmare has come true, our water systems have been compromised, and not from terrorists but from ineptitude, from surgical budget cuts that hobble inspectors, and from a no-regulation ideology in a state desperate for employment. Two companies that lacked oversight, and one that lacked zero regulation have endangered the population of the middle America and its water supply.

Think it doesn’t affect your city, it’s a West Virginia problem – not thinking is why we are here – it is recommended that we don’t think. A city runs on water. Water seeks it’s level. You cannot stop rushing water, nor can you control seeping water. It is a force. You cannot keep it out of your tap water, unless you take action.

Call, write, persuade your representative to intercede in this national crisis. It’s not just those West Virginians who live in Chemical Valley who are not able to drink municipal water after the NO DRINK BAN was lifted.. The Elk River spill will slither its way to the your doorstep. If you escape this one with the aging infrastructure, and a state with few or no regulations, will your town be next?

Cincinnati, Louisville, and cities and towns down the river route to the ocean are exposed to a sinister chemical that although it has not been tested thoroughly, and has been known to kill rats, to interfere with the formation of the embryo, lower white blood count, and possibly cause leukemia and lymphoma, according to the wording of a major lawsuit filed in the brink of a major toxic water event that is unfathomable. Is there any acceptable level for this chemical? Are sores, burns, rashes, and pneumonia acceptable?

Any city’s financial health is tied to the daily delivery of drinkable, useable water to restaurants, salons, schools, and hospitals, communities at large. MCHM does not disappear when Cincinnati closes its valves for 48 hours. Louisville, regardless of what American Water, a corporation traded on the stock exchange tells us, the source has not been eliminated, the river banks, as well as the streams will most likely release it for sometime.

If perchance this stuff gets into your water supply in sufficient quantity, your customers will not drink this stuff. It stinks like cherry-liquorice commode cleaner. Wash a customer’s hair in it they might have sores on their scalps, or not, you might have introduced a stealth carcinogen to your customers. Like to fish, and like to eat your fish: caution.

So, it happens to you, but your neighbor’s water is flushed, but the ban has not been lifted in your area, the offending company brings “clean” water around, distributes it to the high school. All is good, right? Wrong. In West Virginia, the water company runs around back, loads up its tankers with dirty water, distributes it at the local high school, still smelling like commode cleaner. They pass the tanker water off as clean water; they don’t admit it is dirty water until people begin complaining. So, you ask yourself, can a company who tells you it’s delivering water from clean source be believed when it says it’s tested the water, and it’s safe to drink?

The CDC is usually the agency you go to for answers, but this time they wouldn’t back themselves up. It was the same mantra over and over. When the CDC was asked if the water was safe the questioners were referred to the American Water Company, and when the reporters went back to the water company they were told to contact the CDC.

The people of West Virginia were told the chemical was safe to drink and bathe in. Forty-eight hours later they said, no, wait, maybe pregnant women, children under three, and those with immune system problems shouldn’t drink it. A doctor from the health department said essentially that it is all in the heads of the complainers, it will go away. Who are you to believe. You want to bathe, you want to wash dishes, you want your life back.

And, the CDC decision to call the toxic water fixed at one part per million is a joke, and the real joke is on all the states bordering the rivers that the Elk River in West Virginia flows into, and leaks away from to free standing wells and septic tanks, because this chemical cannot be turned off by closing the valves for 48 hours, it’s still coming. The 60 mile plume is only the most evident sign that it’s passing your cities.

And if you can smell it, and you get pneumonia are the particles in the air hazardous? The smell is not a detector like Mercapton in natural gas. Natural gas smells funky because it has an additive that smells, and warns us when it leaks so we can detect it. Gasoline smell is simply gasoline. It irritates when ingested or breathed. MCHM does the same.  MCHM has an odor described as faint. Crude MCHM contains six additional ingredients, which we may or may not have an odor, and may or may not cause lungs, eyes, and throat to burn. [There is too little information about the crude MCHM in combination with the other six ingredients to say for sure if the combinatorial chemical is hazardous to breath.]

I am nothing if not cynical about West Virginia, my state of birth and the nation I’ve respected and loved. We are led by leaderless, self-absorbed, greedy, without conscience, arrogant, superior feeling group of politicians who spy and lie to their constituents – barefaced lies, that barely conceal their contempt for those they deem inferior – anyone who is not them. They are smarter and more deserving, smug and sure, and ripe for political upending.

Our elected representatives from the president of the United States down the line through the Senate and Congress failed to report to duty, or rather reported, then ran off when the real work started in West Virginia, offering flats of water without offering words of assurance or compassion, or a plan. The city of Charleston’s fragile economy is falling apart. A city runs on water. Do you understand the implications, Cincinnati and Louisville? West Virginia is small enough to fail. Cincinnati may be too large to help.

California burns, North Carolina leaks radioactive water, poor children miss the only sure meals for the week because they cannot attend school in West Virginia, a mother whose husband has died chooses between buying kerosene for heat or water for her children; a school shooting happens in New Mexico, but who cares or notices.

The national pundits fiddle while California burns, the Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers are poisoned, and North Carolina streams – who knows, so little about the recent radiation damage is published. While our children are hungry, and our unborn babies development threatened, the national media fawns and fumbles over the Chris Christie cat fight, a footnote in history. Not all of the media, thank goodness. Some are brave and relentless, appalled and letting us know it, like Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette, giving us information to make decisions for an about our families.

When you have two corporate weasels and two corporations not locally owned, and politicians bought and paid for, and a system not propped up by regulations, inspections, and regular maintenance, it’s surprising it has not happened before on a larger scale.