January 9, 2021 marked the seventh anniversary of the 2014 MCHM spill into the Elk River that left about 300,000 people without access to clean water for up to nine days.
OVEC organizer Dustin White led the charge in setting up our Remembering the WV Water Crisis virtual event to mark the anniversary.
Early on the morning of January 9, 2014, people living downstream from the Freedom Industries “tank farm” noticed a strong, stinging licorice smell. Eventually DEP determined that about 7,500 gallons of a coal-cleaning chemical called crude 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) had leaked from an above ground storage tank into the Elk River. West Virginia American Water’s intake was about one mile downstream from the leak at the water company’s treatment and distribution facility. The company was supposedly aware of the leak by noon, but it wasn’t until 5:45 that evening that customers it told it’s customers the water wasn’t safe to use.
In the unsettling exposé What Lies Upstream, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to study the unprecedented loss of clean water for over 300,000 Americans in the 2014 Elk River chemical spill. There he uncovers a shocking failure of regulation from both state and federal agencies and a damaged political system where chemical companies often write the laws that govern them.
Participants in our anniversary event had watched the documentary prior to tuning in with us for a panel discussion featuring environmental justice advocate Pam Nixon and attorney Kevin Thompson.
If you missed the compelling testimony about what happened, the power of community-member activism, and what we can do to continue to defend our water supplies, you can watch a recording of the anniversary event here.