When you make your living on the river you understand the truth in the words of David Suzuki, ‘We all live downstream.’
West Virginia made national news last week as a State of Emergency was declared, when over 300,000 people were left without clean water due to a chemical spill. The spill happened on the Elk River, 1 ½ miles upstream of the intake for the regions water treatment plant in Charleston, WV. The chemical, 4-methyl-cyclohexane-methanol, leaked from a plant owned by Freedom Industries. West Virginia American Water, The CDC, FEMA and others have worked around the clock to determine how to clean up this chemical spill and to restore clean drinking water to the affected communities. Countless volunteers have delivered water and meals throughout this disaster.
Here at Wonderland, our water safety and quality has not been compromised. This devastating spill is downstream and west of us. The Elk River is not a tributary of the New River or the Gauley River; the Elk is a tributary of the Kanawha River. The New and the Gauley rivers form the Kanawha River, which runs through Charleston, WV.
The State of West Virginia is being heavily criticized for not having stricter regulations to avoid this type of situation. However, as we learn more, they are not alone in being caught off guard by this disaster. Homeland Security states that the U.S. as a nation does not have preventative measures in place for this type of disaster. And WV American Water does not have a system in place to detect chemical agents in their systems.
Water security was part of a 2002 Law passed by Congress requiring utility companies to assess vulnerabilities, but the law did not follow-up with a mandate to correct deficiencies. While the White House supports establishment of secure water systems and safety regulations, no progress has been made to establish anything. We suspect this will change. But efforts have to come from many sources: the public has to voice their concerns and demand accountability. Businesses that store and use chemicals have to be held to stricter regulations, government agencies like DEP and Homeland Security have to be empowered to enforce regulations and have 100% follow through on initiatives that keep our water systems secure.
We’ll be keeping up to date on this event as the investigation reveals more information. As of this writing thousands are still without water. WV American Water has a water safety map that shows areas where clean up has been completed. Rebuilding from this disaster is going to take time and much effort, and our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors in the valley.
WV State Page- Has updates about the State of Emergency, as well as Listings of Water Distribution Centers.