Month: June 2014

Happy West Virginia Day! (Part 3 of 4 in the Water Crisis Continues)

Hi everyone,

Happy West Virginia Day! I want to wish you all a day of reflection on and celebration of our beautiful state of West Virginia. I was recently at the New River Gorge and Summersville Lake and shot some footage of the incredible natural beauty that our state has to offer. So please enjoy this quick video montage of that footage along with a message I think will resonate with everyone affected by the West Virginia Water Crisis.

I encourage you all to Facebook, tweet, or instagram your own video or photos of the natural beauty of our state, using #keepWVclean. Let’s start an online movement showing everyone just why keeping our water, land, and air clean is so important.

Sincerely,

Krista

Advertisements

West Virginia Water: The Crisis Continues (Part 2 in Series of 4)

In the first part of this video, I explain that a second spill occurred on Friday in addition to the spill I focused on in my last video in this series. If you would like to read more about the spills on Thursday and Friday, read Ken Ward’s article in the Charleston Gazette. I don’t recount all of the details from that article, but I do raise an important question in response to DEP Secretary Randy Huffman’s statement about the most recent spill: why do we continue to rely on Freedom Industries to ensure public safety? why doesn’t the EPA or another government agency demolish the site?

The rest of this video focuses on what we as citizens can do to remain vigilant over the water crisis. I believe it is the public’s job —  our job, yours and mine — to draw national attention back to this story. We all remember how many missteps the state and federal government made throughout the first few weeks and several months, really, of the water crisis. No one paid attention to us until we demanded it at press conferences, town hall meetings, protests and vigils, through letters, emails, and phone calls, and online through social media. If we thought our work was over, or at least not as urgent because we aren’t in a state of immediate crisis, the past two days events have proven us wrong.

So what is it our responsibility to do? I know we all have different obligations of our time, abilities, and interests. I’ve been quietly working on my research on the crisis that is now being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and last month I screened a preview of my documentary on the water crisis at the West Virginia International Film Festival. But I haven’t been as vocal about recent events because I’ve been tucked away doing that work, and I constantly worry that my silence and the silence of others takes the pressure off of government officials to do what needs to be done. Yesterday’s spill makes it very clear to me that we need continued action on our part to hold our government accountable for violations of our health and safety. So here are some simple actions you can take to make industry caused environmental disasters less likely in our beautiful state of West Virginia:

1)   Inform yourself! Read and watch local news. I know that sometimes it’s hard to find stories about the water crisis because they’re so buried on news sites, so a quick way to find out what’s going on is to search the Twitter #WVWaterCrisis. There you’ll find both news reports and local on-the-ground stories and commentary about what’s going on.

2)   Share your stories. In my research, I’ve found that Facebook is one of the primary ways people shared information about the Water Crisis and organized action. So share links to news reports and videos like this one on your wall and encourage your friends to read them. While you’re on Facebook, check out the Friends of Water Facebook page. Friends of Water is an online community that keeps those who follow the page informed of legislative and community action pertaining to the water crisis. You can also follow West Virginia Clean Water Hub and West Virginia Citizen Action Group on Facebook to keep track of activities pertaining to the water crisis.

3)   When you see a planned action like gathering at a legislative session, a town hall, or a protest, go! All it takes is showing up. Trust me, the presence of every person there really adds up. These public gatherings get the attention of the media and of politicians. Remember the press conference that forced Tomblin to provide funding for the WV TAP program? Public demonstrations of outrage are effective. I wonder if yesterday’s spill would have happened had we been protesting outside of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson’s court while he delayed the demolition of the Freedom Industries site for five months.

4)   The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will provide an update on their investigation into the January 9 chemical spill at a meeting on July 16 from 12-3 pm at the Four Points Sheraton in Charleston. They will present their findings and allow time for public comments, so I encourage you all to attend

Share your stories about the water crisis here, either in print, video, image, or audio. Everyone’s story is important. Telling individual stories is what makes the water crisis real and relevant to others who may not be invested in the ongoing crisis in West Virginia.

West Virginia Water: The Crisis Continues

Hi everyone and thanks for tuning in for an update on the West Virginia Water Crisis. As you may know there another chemical spill was reported yesterday at Freedom Industries, the same site where 10,000 gallons of the coal-washing chemical, 4-MCHM was spilled into the Elk River, causing a water crisis that made the tap water unusable for 300,000 people in West Virginia.

 

Yesterday, a storm water containment trench at Freedom Industries overflowed into the Elk River. WSAZ reporter Michael Clouse and WOWK reporter have both reported that the licorice smell associated with 4-MCHM was noticeable. Think Progress reports that it was the Department of Environmental Protection that realized a spill had occurred due to a sump pump failing to send the overflow into a storage tank. The DEP has been on site at Freedom Industry and at West Virginia American Water testing the water. West Virginia American Water reports on their Facebook page that “initial results show no detection of MCHM in water at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.” They also reported that there have been no odors detected, contrary to what journalists and residents near Freedom and the surrounding area have been reporting.

 

I have seen several people online asking how results from testing results came back so quickly when it took so long to get previous testing on chemical levels in our drinking water from the January 9th spill. I don’t know the answer to this, but I do know from all of my work with the environmental engineering team that has been working on testing the water in home plumbing systems affected by the January 9th spill that different laboratories have different capabilities for detecting chemicals in water. Just because one laboratories’ equipment can’t detect something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A better lab with more powerful equipment may detect something, but at a much lower level than the screening level than another lab. Also, although MCHM was not detected, there are no reports on what other chemicals may have been present in that water and what other chemicals they have tested for.

 

Another question being posed is how there were still any chemicals at the Freedom Industries site to be spilled into our water again. The West Virginia Gazette reported today that the demolition of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom that Governor Tomblin ordered just two weeks after the January 9 spill has still not occurred because Freedom has not been able to acquire the permits needed to do so. Why would it take so long do get these permits, you may ask? Because Freedom’s bankruptcy case requires that a judge approve all of the company’s expenditures. What I’m unsure of, and I can’t find reports of anywhere, is what is taking so long to approve this expenditure. Apparently, a budget for cleanup and demolition has been filed with the bankruptcy court, but they are sealed so that contractors don’t try to use estimates to inflate their cleanup costs.

The video you watched above will be part of a series of videos, including exclusive news about the WV TAP project, and information on how you can help make West Virginia water clean and keep our state beautiful. So stay tuned!

Also, please read an update with more details on this most recent spill from Ken Ward with the Charleston Gazette.