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March 5, 2014

March 8: Big Citizen Water Party at the WV State Capitol

Gather your family and friends and come out to the Big, Big, BIG Citizen Water Party this Saturday, March 8. Join us at 11 a.m. on the Senate side of the Rotunda. Meet up with friends old and new, listen to some inspiring speakers, groove to cool musicians, find out ways you can stay engaged after the legislative session and send a message to legislators: We demand clean water, we demand you serve the public (not the polluter) interest and we'll remember your actions when we head to the voting booths.

Even if some version of the water / tank bill passes before Saturday, which is the last day of the 2014 legislative session, we need you at this event to let legislators know this is only a first step and we are watching.

OVEC can help coordinate carpools for our members and supporters, so if you need a ride or can offer one, reply to this e-mail.

This event is organized by what is, at the moment, known as the WV Water Crisis Roundtable, an informal consortium of groups and individuals working for clean water. The roundtable has been meeting regularly since January 9, when a massive leak of a coal-processing chemical contaminated the water of 300,000 people in central West Virginia.

~Come Out! ~ Stand up for clean water and be counted! ~ Show Citizen Power! ~ Have fun and make a difference! ~

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Wake Up and Smell the Water Update
Wait! What?! The water problem still isn't over? Come on, the governor lifted the state of emergency last week (after, gulp, handling it to "the best of our ability") and the CDC says the water is "safe" now, but as this article points out, people are still experiencing MCHM-exposure-related symptoms and smelling that smell.

Residents still flock to get bottled water after emergency officially ends
DEP increases estimate of chemical storage tanks

A usually rather pro-coal newspaper, the Morgantown Dominion Post, shocked us with this editorial. They get it: “The problem is the Jan. 9 chemical spill and the resultant publicity was no isolated instance. Chemical spills, sludge and slurry dams leaks and breaks, fracking fallout, acid mine drainage, mountaintop removal mines and any one of a dozen other such environmental hazards are virtually the norm in West Virginia.

“The only difference in the 10,000-gallon spill of a coal-cleaning agent into a river near Charleston was that it affected 300,000 people.”

This article from Newsweek, which quotes OVEC board member Rose Edington and her husband, OVEC member Mel Hoover, does a good job of explaining why the public doesn't trust that the water is safe to use. It notes, "MCHM is also a chemical compound designed to process coal dug from the Appalachian Mountains, and so its interaction with the human body had never been considered, nor much investigated, despite the fact that it was stored in tanks on a river bank less than two miles upstream of the valley's drinking water distribution facilities."

This slideshow from our most excellent friends at Earthjustice: Ground View: Life Without Clean Water gives an overview of current and ongoing threats. Watch for OVEC photos and the work of the collaborative WV Clean Water Hub, which is profiled in this must-read article, "How grassroots organizing came to the rescue in West Virginia’s water crisis."

Even if folks in the areas hit by the MCHM contamination do sometime in the future feel okay about drinking the water, it doesn't mean the people living near coal-prep plants sites or mountaintop removal operations will be able to safely use their water anytime soon.

The Associated Press article, Rural West Virginians understand bad water, mentions "deteriorating quality of well water." In this op-ed OVEC organizer Maria Gunnoe explains why the coal-bearing regions of West Virginia have that bad well water and in this op-ed Bill Hughes explains why the natural-gas-bearing regions of our state have that same problem.

Our work continues.

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Contact U.S. Congress Today
A bill before Congress, H.R. 2824, seeks to perpetuate mountaintop removal mining by allowing polluters to dump toxic mining waste directly into critical streams and watersheds. The bill would bring a Bush-era policy back to life even though it has been declared illegal in court and would put countless miles of waterways in jeopardy. Click here to send a message of opposition to your congressperson.

Need a reminder about why taking action to end mountaintop removal is so important? Take a few minutes to read a recent YES! magazine article, "West Virginians Raise Alarm as Research Links Coal Mining to Cancer, Birth Defects." The article features Junior Walk with Coal River Mountain Watch and RAMPS, quotes OVEC Executive Director Janet Keating and mentions our collaborative work with CRMW, RAMPS, Southern Appalachian Labor School and the ACHE Act campaign. If you haven't done so already, be sure to contact your congressperson about the ACHE Act. The ACHE Act and OVEC are also lifted up in this Post Carbon Institute photo essay (watch for our photos): It's Time to Move Beyond Dirty Coal.

If you prefer a video reminder of why we must end mountaintop removal, watch this PBS To The Contrary segment, during which OVEC's Executive Director Janet Keating is in the studio, and MTR is explained in a video shot on Kayford Mountain with OVEC organizers Maria Gunnoe and Dustin White and Keeper of the Mountains' Elise Keaton and Paul Corbit Brown:

What's happening in our mountains affects every family struggling with extreme weather, storms, floods and more all over the country. Sign the "Don't let coal companies pollute our drinking water!" petition from Paula Swearingen, with Climate Parents (who we are proud to say is an OVEC member).

Above: At front of the My Clean H2O Matters march, left to right,
Rev. Mel Hoover, Rev. Rose Edington, Paula Swearingen,
with megaphone, and Kenneth Hale, president of
Charleston NAACP.

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Upcoming Events
March 9 -16: Mountain Justice Spring Break 2014

March 17: 7 p.m. League of Women Voters sponsors a SWAP (Source Water Assessment Protection) meeting at the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, 469 Norway Avenue, Huntington, WV.

We were all disturbed about the chemical spill into the Elk River, 1 ½ miles above Charleston’s drinking water plant’s intake. We have seen the confusion, fear, and disorder in people’s lives.

The Elk River accident points out several major problems – Freedom Industries’ not maintaining its tanks, the lack of DEP inspections of the Freedom Industries facility, Freedom’s tardiness in informing the water company of the leak, West Virginia American Water Company’s lack of knowledge of the contaminant’s potential harm, and the lack of a community plan to protect the drinking water sources.

But if a SWAP program had been fully implemented, the spill probably would have been prevented. The Safe Drinking Water Act includes the SWAP program to protect drinking water plants from contaminated source waters.

The assessment includes finding potential contaminant threats to drinking water sources and evaluations on whether it is likely that the source water can become contaminated. Particular concerns are on the pollutants in the Zones of Critical Concern, areas of the source water that are close to the water plant’s intakes.

Communities can follow up with management plans that will protect their source waters and contingency plans on how to respond to accidents.

The SWAP for Huntington’s drinking water plant was developed in 2003 by the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health Office of Environmental Health Services Environmental Engineering Division. The water plant and community did not follow up with a management plan. Huntington’s SWAP may be accessed here.

Come out on the 17th to learn more. Check our online calendar for more upcoming events.

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In This Alert

March 8: Big Citizen Water Party
at the WV State Capitol

Wake Up and
Smell the Water Update

Contact U.S. Congress Today

Upcoming Events

Urgent: Folks Needed in WV House Gallery at11:30 a.m.
today, March 5, for SB 373,
the "Water Bill."
Details on our Facebook page.
Check this page often for updates in the final days of the legislative session and be sure you
are subscribed to WVEC
and WVCAG action alerts
for last-minute updates.

Buffalo Creek: On February 26, people across West Virginia and beyond spent some time in quiet reflection, remembering the 125 people killed in the Buffalo Creek disaster in Logan County, WV. More than 4,000 were left homeless when poorly-constructed coal waste dams failed, sending a deadly, black tidal wave down Buffalo Creek. Learn more about that terrifying day here, here and read a very personal, amazing account here from Kerry Albright, above.

Reggae for the Earth and OVEC: Ok, and how cool is this?! Jamaican-born, Beckley, WV-based reggae singer / songwriter Shayar, below, has written a song for OVEC. Please like and share.

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