Reporters’ Resources: One Year Anniversary – WV Drinking Water Chemical Contamination

January 9, 2015 marks the one-year anniversary of the massive chemical leak at Freedom Industries’ tank farm along the Elk River, about a mile upstream from WV American Water’s intake pipes in Charleston, W.Va. More than week passed before the state government began to declare the water “safe” for consumption. But many doubted that declaration, and those who could afford to do so continued to purchase bottled water for months after the “all clear” had been given. Some still refuse to drink the tap water.

As the one-year anniversary of the chemical (the chemicals were used to clean coal for market) leak approaches, OVEC has compiled some resources we think will be helpful to journalists looking into the state of safe water in our state.

Charleston Gazette Coverage of Water Crisis

WV FREE Women and Water
WV Rivers Coalition Citizens’ Guide to SB373

Study Published December, 2014

Residential Tap Water Contamination Following the Freedom Industries Chemical Spill: Perceptions, Water Quality, and Health Impacts

Contacts and Statements

Affected residents: E-mail vivian@ohvec.org for a list of contacts

Op-ed from OVEC’s Executive Director Janet Keating

Upcoming Events

Media Advisory: January 7 Tele-Press Conference:

One Year Anniversary of West Virginia Drinking Water Chemical Contamination
Citizen Groups, Parents and Health Experts Discuss State of Safe Water (this link coming soon)

Media Advisory: January 9 Events: One Year Anniversary of the Elk River Chemical Leak

Facebook: January 9 Candlelight Vigil

Facebook: January: A Month of Water

Social Media

Some of the hashtags in use: #wvwatercrisis #waterunitesus #MCHM #MyCleanH2OMatters

Lawsuit

Federal Class Action Lawsuit: Good vs. American Water
Interim Class Counsel Kevin Thompson: 504-430-8286

In the News Now

Aftereffects Of W.V. Chemical Spill Still Felt Months Later: December 18 interview of Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward, Jr. by NPR’s Melissa Block

Recent developments:
Goodwin: More coming on Freedom criminal probe
6 Freedom owners, managers, employees charged; company takes plea deal with feds
PSC orders WV American Water to provide spill info
MCHM toxic in pregnant rats, new study finds

Citizen Groups Involved

Stories from South Central Regional Jail  Negligence and Malice: A Preliminary Report on the Water Crisis at SCRJ

The West Virginia Safe Water Roundtable: The chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water of nearly a sixth of the state’s population deeply distressed citizens around the state and nation about the safety of our drinking water. Citizen groups played a huge role in responding to the crisis, mobilizing for action —holding educational forums, rallies and meetings, all aimed at holding regulators and politicians accountable. In response to citizen outcry, the legislature passed Senate Bill 373, which imposes the first-ever regulation of above-ground storage tanks.

Out of this organizing work emerged the West Virginia Safe Water Roundtable, a coalition involving 28 organizations committed to working together to ensure the availability of clean, safe water to sustain life and a vital economy in West Virginia.

Organizations that have participated in the WV Safe Water Roundtable meetings over the past year include:

Advocates for a Safe Water System / Artists Working in Alliance to Restore the Environment (AWARE) / American Friends Service Committee / Aurora Lights / Citizens Actively Protecting the Environment / Covenant House / Fairness WV / Friends of Water / Healthy Kids and Families Coalition / Keepers of the Mountains / NAACP / OVEC – Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition / Our Children Our Future Campaign / People Concerned About Chemical Safety / Sierra Club / The Alliance for Appalachia / Unitarian Universalist Clean Water Task Force / WV Center for Budget and Policy / WV Citizen Action for Real Enforcement / WV Citizen Action Group / WV Clean Water Hub / WV Council of Churches / WV Environmental Council / WV FREE / WV League of Women Voters / WV Moms for “SAFE” Water / WV Rivers Coalition / WV Sustainable Business Council

Background

January 9, 2015 marks the one-year anniversary of the massive coal-cleaning chemical leak at Freedom Industries’ tank farm along the Elk River, about a mile upstream from WV American Water’s intake pipes. Early in the day, a sickening licorice smell began wafting out of water taps and hospitals reported an influx of people with rashes, nausea and other complaints after taking baths or showers. By afternoon, the governor declared a state of emergency and some 300,000 customers of WVAW were told to stop using their water for anything but flushing commodes and putting out fires. Stores were wiped clean of bottled water. The National Guard and local nonprofit groups worked to get bottled water to people in the nine impacted counties of Central West Virginia.

Restaurants, small businesses and government buildings were forced to close. It would be days before some businesses could reopen. Several never did, having gone bankrupt. More than a week passed before the government began to declare the water “safe” in homes in the region. But many doubted that declaration, and those who could afford to do so continued to purchase bottled water for months after the “all clear” had been given. Some still refuse to drink the tap water.

After the chemical spill, people mobilized for action, holding educational forums, rallies and meetings, all aimed at holding regulators and politicians accountable. Our work continues today.

OVEC Action Alerts During 2014 MCHM Water Crisis

January 15: West Virginia Water Crisis Ongoing / Welcome to Our World
January 20: Honoring the Waters / Wake Up and Smell the Water
January 27: More Honoring the Waters / Wake Up and Smell the Water Update
February 3: Public Hearing – Bring Your Dirty Water
February 7: Bill WV American Water Company
March 5: Big Citizen Water Party at the WV State Capitol
March 26: Public Meeting on MCHM and Water 
May 12: DEP Needs to Hear From You
September 9: Wellness and Water

 

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