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.