The Smell of the Water in Winfield

I filmed this video of the West Virginia Water Crisis yesterday afternoon. After you let the water run about ten seconds, the smell became so strong. It did smell like licorice or anise seed. It was overpowering. You can also see there are more bubbles than usual in tap water (there are always some because of the chemicals used in water treatment plants). But this water was fizzy.

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Krista Bryson, Driving Through Eleanor and Winfield

This is my mom and me on our way to the store. We drive through Eleanor, WV where the National Guard and Red Cross set up a water filling/distribution station and across the Kanawha River and into Winfield, WV.

This morning, I heard unconfirmed reports on the ground that it will be three days before water is potable (safe to drink).

Sorry about the incorrect dates I stated at the beginning of the video. It’s been a crazy time reporting here and I barely know what day it is without a calendar. The chemical spill into the Elk River occurred the morning of Thursday, January 9 and was reported to the public at 5 pm that evening. I filmed this vlog the morning of Sunday, January 12. I spent all day yesterday filming and blogging about the #WaterCrisis and all day Friday live tweeting all news and on-the-ground updates. I have many more updates and stories to tell. So please keep checking back. I have some wonderful friends now helping me edit and upload new videos. Thanks, Jen and Meg!

I also plan to have a more formal reflection on the events of the past few days soon. There are much larger, long-term concerns that I want to talk about, especially within the context of history of the exploitation of the environment and people of West Virginia.

Thank you to everyone who has viewed and shared this blog. People need to know what is going on here in West Virginia and start thinking about what has been going on here for decades.

You can also follow me for updates on Twitter: @klbryson

Steve Pauley, Former Chemical Plant Worker, Culloden, Putnam County

I have been watching this situation very closely, and I have to say that I am quite upset. However, it’s not at WV American Water or Freedom Industries so much. I do hold them responsible, but I am more upset at this whole “Water Crisis” idea that has been swirling about. This my friends is not a crisis, it’s an inconvenience. This thing is being reported as a catastrophic event, but it is not. It is a symptom of a larger crisis, the real and true devastation in this area and this state. I’m talking about the chemical and mining industries. They have brought destruction, illness, and death, but they are treated as saviors.

To tell you my story, I have to go beyond this water situation and back several decades. My father past away in 2006. He worked at the chemical plant in Institute. He worked there most of his adult life, surrounded by chemical leaks and even had a job for many years burying the most hazardous chemical waste in the landfill on Goff Mountain. He had major health problems for most of my life. He was in and out of the hospital more times than I could even count. He had three heart attacks by the age of 60. And, he finally died at the age of 70 from numerous disorders. I know that it is all due to the time he spent in that plant.

I remember one particular incident that spells out the mindset of the chemical industry and the state government around here. When I was around eight years-old, there was a leak at the plant (as there were on many occasions). Some gas was released that was so toxic it peeled the paint on all the cars in the parking lots and surrounding areas. The workers and residents of the area complained to the governor and what they got was $100 to get their cars detailed, with no mention of health risks of inhaling this stuff.

When I was in my twenties I too worked in the chemical plant, because there were so few other jobs for non-skilled people like me who also had no access to higher education. I spent two years in the plant, and in that time I saw chemical leaks on a daily basis. And, each time some representative from the chemical company or the state government always insisted that the leak was “contained within the plant.” I always wondered, as most of the leaks were gases, how they managed to contain gases within the plant. Was there some magic force field around the plant that kept them in?

Let me share one last story about my decision to finally leave the chemical plant. One day I was up on a tower cleaning up some waste material that had leaked out (supposedly with protective gear, but I never felt entirely secure about its effectiveness). While I was up there the chemical alarm sounded for a gas leak of Methyl isocyanate (MIC), the same stuff that killed all those people in Bhopal, India in 1984. During the alarm everyone else sheltered in place, but I was up on a tower and couldn’t get down, so I was left there while all these chemicals swirled around me. Once the emergency was over, someone finally came to get me down, but only after they had me finish the job that I was doing up there. I sent letters to OSHA and my congressman about the incident and was assured that there would be a “thorough investigation.” That was in 1991, and I’m still waiting to hear anything further about it.

So, you see why I don’t regard this latest event as a major event. This sort of thing has been happening to the people of “Chemical Valley” for decades and the government is in support of the companies. I will guarantee now that promises of investigations and full accountability will be made, but a month from now, this will be like it never happened and every official from the government and the companies involved will have “forgotten” that it ever happened. And, that is my story.

Rick Masley, St. Albans, Kanawha County

Freedom Industries is responsible for leaking Eastmans Crude MCHC product into the Elk River Watershead.

West Virginia American Water is responsible for not removing it from the water they supply to their customers nor detecting it while first saying their plant was removing it.

Various city and state representatives are responsible for declaring a state of emergency and preventing 300K citizens the us of water without any evidence it is unsafe which has also crippled thousands of businesses. They are also liable for gross negligence for ignoring Freedom Industries Tier 2 form disclosure and not having any plans in place for a dealing with a leak when they were fully aware that the tank farm was situated on the Elk and less than 1.5 miles from WVAW’s water intake. Over the years they’ve accepted 10’s of millions of dollars of tax payers money to plan for events like these.

This is a terrible situation infinitely exacerbated by the negligence of many individuals. There will be a reckoning in the coming weeks and months and all will be held fully accountable for their failures.

I urge every body affected by this travesty to first secure water and food provisions for their family, check on your neighbors and then to seek legal representation as soon as possible. There will be lawsuits against a multitude of public and private entities. Please file your claim as soon as possible to ensure that you can be compensated before the bankruptcies and insurance limits.

Emily, Charleston, Kanawha County

It’s not just not being able to shower….. Although soon that will start to reach a fever pitch for hundreds of thousands of people.

Do you realize how much you use water? Put plastic bags over all your faucets and see how long it takes to start feeling discouraged.

And then there’s the funky cough syrup smell when we open the lid of our toilet. We don’t know how much is in the water or how dangerous it is. We don’t know when we can use our water again. We got five gallons for ourselves and five gallons for both sets of our parents today 90 miles away. But it might not be enough? Who knows! Everyone is trying to roll with it, and water stations are set up.

So it’s frustrating and it’s scary, and not only can we not use tap water for bathing, we can’t do dishes or laundry or cook. Well, unless you don’t mind doing dishes by hand with precious bottles of water.

Restaurants are closed. Schools were closed Friday. We have a lot of questions, a lot of inconveniences, and most people have really seemed to be handling it in pretty good spirits, all things considering.

And it’s a powerful reminder of how incredible it is to usually have access to such a wonderful thing as beautiful, odorless, potable water, because so many people in the world don’t have that luxury.

But right now we have greasy hair. We’re scared. We’re coping. Waiting. Trying to get out of town or just distract ourselves.

Right now, to fantasize about a hot shower or bath is just a comforting way to visualize the end of this bizarre, stressful, and confusing experience.