water deliveries

West Virginia Water Crisis Film Excerpt

This is the work-in-progress excerpt from my film on the West Virginia Water Crisis that I showed at the West Virginia International Film Festival on May 13, 2014.

*Caption titled “natural disaster” should read “national disaster.”

Although the majority of my footage for the film is of individual citizen’s responses to the crisis, I chose Dr. Andrew Whelton as the sole narrator for this piece because I felt that his story made for a more cohesive and in-depth narrative for such a short excerpt of the film. Dr. Whelton and his research team came unsolicited and unfunded from the University of South Alabama to test the effects of the contaminated water on plumbing systems in affected residents’ homes. As you will see from this clip, their perspectives and understandings of the crisis evolved and forced their work to evolve as well.

At the end of the clip, Dr. Whelton offers a perspective on who is responsible for the botched response to the water crisis that may be surprising to some. I know it certainly was for me. I think it’s important to remember that we all have different perspectives to offer on this, and that this is just one of those perspectives. However, I think Dr. Whelton’s message about who is responsible for the poor communication following the chemical spill instructs us all to take a broader view of the systemic inequalities that contributed to these problems.

It’s also important to know that made this clip for a West Virginia audience, so there is some footage that requires insider knowledge. For example, the last clip of the protest is located at the Governor’s Mansion and is paired with the audio narrative about Dr. Whelton’s meeting with the governor.

I would like to thank the WVIFF, the sponsors for the event, and the other filmmakers for their dedication and creativity that is so clearly evident in their films. I also would like to thank Dr. Whelton and all of the participants in this film, as well as the National Science Foundation for providing a grant that made this film possible. And, of course, I would like to thank my friends, family, professors, and the people of West Virginia for supporting me and inspiring me to keep going on this project.

Ultimately, I hope that my film can help improve communication between the scientific community, public officials responding to crises, and the people on the ground experiencing the crises. We all have a lot to learn about how to deal with events like this and there is a desperate need for us to start being proactive to prevent them from happening in the future.

Look at What You Helped Do!

I received nearly $300 in donations from several generous online donors to buy water, paper towels, and other supplies for people affected by the West Virginia Water Crisis. It was a great day, and I hope I can keep coming back with more for water for people who need it.

Yes, many people affected by the WV Water Crisis still aren’t drinking the water. Yes, it’s getting expensive for them. Yes, you can help.

To learn more about why people are still afraid to drink the water, read my previous post.

If you would like to donate, go to http://www.wvwatercrisis.com/waterdistribution and click on my PayPal link.

This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International License: http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses

West Virginia Water Seven Weeks Later

Newsweek Article

Today marks seven weeks since what the National Science Foundation is calling one of the biggest environmental disasters of the last decade occurred in my home state of West Virginia. Too many things have happened since Freedom Industries polluted our water to cover in this post, but there are a few things that are important for you to know now. The Newsweek article I was interviewed for explains some of those things, but this post is going to focus on two of those points and give you some actionable steps to help West Virginians who are still suffering.

#1 Thing to Know: West Virginians are still not drinking, bathing in, or cleaning with their tap water. Imagine seven weeks of showering, cooking, and washing your dishes with only bottled water. Imagine the cost. Imagine the inconvenience. Imagine the mental space this must take up. Imagine the emotional toll of constant fear and worry.

Why? Because people are still experiencing rashes, swelling, diarrhea, vomiting, and faintness from the coming into contact with the water and the fumes. Because people still fear the water and distrust official messages about water safety because of a series of egregious missteps by the state government and health officials, which includes but is not limited to:

1) allowing a gap of at least eight hours before the leak occurred and the public was notified

2) lifting the Do Not Use Order and then stating that pregnant women should not drink the water

3) drawing contaminated water into water buffaloes for emergency distribution in the affected counties

4) establishing a level of safe contamination at 1 parts per million, based on studies of the effects of other chemicals on rats

5) telling the public that their use of the water is at their own discretion and refusing to comment on whether it is actually “safe”

6) canceling public schools, re-opening some schools, and then sending children back home  because students and teachers were passing out from the water fumes

7) discovering a second chemical and possibly several others present in the spill that were not reported to the public until twelve days after the spill

8) revealing that the storage tanks at the chemical plant had only been inspected by the DEP three times in twenty years and that the storage tanks were not subject to any governmental regulations

9) giving residents arbitrary (and dangerous) flushing instructions

10) allowing Freedom Industries to declare bankruptcy and be refinanced by a “different” owner of an eerily similar name as the previous owner

11) refusing to test water in homes in a high profile press conference and then deciding two hours after the press conference to consider testing water in homes

Currently, neither the state nor the federal government are supplying water to those affected by the chemical spill. The state refuses to dip into its multi-million dollar emergency fund and FEMA denied the governor’s request to continue providing water and other emergency relief to West Virginia.

Actionable Step:

Donate! This is the easiest way to immediately help West Virginians. There are many ways to donate, including going through the West Virginia Clean Water Hub. I am also collecting donations through PayPal for purchasing water and supplies to deliver every time I go to WV to film.

#2 Thing to Know: West Virginians will no longer accept violations of their health and safety by industry. After decades of tolerating ongoing air and water pollutionchemical spills, and industrial explosionsWest Virginians are refusing to ignore further violations of their health and safety in exchange for a barely surviving extraction economy.

There is a short piece about this in the Newsweek article, “For much of Bryson’s life in West Virginia, she says many locals viewed these dangers as “their cross to bear.” But since the Freedom Industries spill, “I have seen such a dramatic shift. We see now how this influences our life.””

Maybe in the past most of us were not immediately affected by these disasters. Those of us who don’t live in a mining town and didn’t personally know the people dying in explosions and collapses are removed enough that we never felt the need to DO anything. Those of us who were raised in the Chemical Valley were used to being constantly poisoned just enough that we didn’t really have to deal with it in our daily lives (until we get cancer or some other disease, but then we can’t attribute it directly to pollution). But when 300,000 people can’t drink or use their water, we have to think about it. We’re confronted head-on with years of our own individual neglect and the government and industry’s systematic abuse of West Virginia’s environment and people. And now we’re doing things.

Actionable Steps:

Share information. Without information we have nothing. Share the individual stories from this site, share news articles, and share information about how to donate, how to protest, how to lobby.

Make your voice heard in the state legislature. West Virginia Citizen Action Group is one organization that is doing great things in response to the water crisis: lobbying, protests, rallies, vigils, and activist training sessions. Friends of Water is another. There are legislative hearings happening as I write this that need your involvement and input. Even if you can only copy and paste a form letter provided by one of these organizations, do it. Every action is immensely important.

Keep coming back here for more stories. You can subscribe to this blog, follow me on Twitter @klbryson, or follow me on Facebook.

Share your story. If you want to write a story or do a video interview with me, email me at wvwatercrisis@gmail.com.

How to Engage People in Critical Dialogue about the Water Crisis

If you’re interested in how to engage people who are resistant to being critical of the coal or chemical industries in West Virginia in conversations about the Water Crisis, this is the video for you. My dear friend and mentor Dr. Roxanne Aftanas speaks about the rhetoric of coal and chemical industries in West Virginia and her view on the Water Crisis. An Arkansas native, Roxanne has a unique outsider/insider perspective. After living and teaching here for nearly a decade, she offers her take on how she gets her students to think critically about the industrial economy in West Virginia and what it has or hasn’t done for them. She asks them, if coal keeps the lights on, where’s the money? She also speaks about the effect of the coal industry on education as she has observed as a university professor and as a parent.

I filmed this just a few days after the chemical spill occurred, so the way people are now responding has certainly evolved since then. But there are still so many people who are unwillingly to be critical of the industries that “sustain” West Virginia and are killing West Virginians and destroying our environment. Roxanne’s interview serves as an example of how we can engage more critical dialogues with those who are resistant.

I’m returning to West Virginia this weekend to film. If you have contacted me about doing an interview and I haven’t gotten back to yet, please don’t think I’ve forgotten you! I will be in touch soon. Everyone’s story is important and I will do my best to get to all of you who have so generously offered to tell me yours.

*None of the opinions featured in this interview  reflect those of Marshall University.

Returning to WV to Film for the Documentary

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Hi friends!

I’ll be filming the water crisis again for this blog and my documentary this weekend (Saturday Feb. 15-Monday Feb. 17). Please let me know if you would like to be interviewed on your feelings about the water crisis, would like to show me your water and/or allow me to film in your home, or know anyone else who would like to do so. Please email me at wvwatercrisis@gmail.com.

I would appreciate you sharing this information and considering contributing your story because everyone’s story is important.

It is the stories of individuals, people suffering from the water crisis, that are the least told in the media coverage of this event. Yet these are the most important stories, the stories that inspire change.

Please consider sharing your story.

I know I have been absent here on the blog lately, but that’s because I’ve been back in Columbus teaching, writing my dissertation, and working non-stop on some big things for the water crisis. I can’t wait to reveal the news, but I still have to wait a bit longer before I do.

Here are some things I’ve been working on that I can tell you about:

I’m also still working on the water and supply drive at OSU, accepting donations online here, and will have an update on that soon. This is a big undertaking because of the scale and bureaucracy at OSU, but I am doing my best.

I was so proud and happy yesterday when Governor Tomblin announced that Dr. Andrew Whelton will be heading up the in-home water testing and research. I have been working with Dr. Whelton from the beginning of the water crisis to spread the word about water safety in homes and put my trust in his research and true compassion for West Virginia.

You can read my interview with Aljazeera America in “Obama’s failure to mention the water crisis disappoints West Virginians.”

I was also asked to be the new activist blogger on Hillbilly Speaks.

I’m still tweeting the #WVWaterCrisis. Follow me @klbryson.

Thank you all again for your support in getting the word out about fundraising, promoting the blog, and sharing your stories.

 

Malissa Deweese on Transporting Water

Malissa talks about using a Teamsters semi-truck to help the National Guard make water deliveries, the difficulties of getting water to the people who need it most, her husband’s work as a county sheriff and National Guard member during the water crisis, her experiences with the water crisis announcement, and her feelings about West Virginians and how they’re responding to the crisis.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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

Janice Faber, Small Business Owner, Winfield, Putnam County

My husband & I own Winfield Quick Stop, a Sunoco gas station in Putnam County, WV. Thursday evening we were out eating dinner when one of our employees called to tell us there was a chemical spill that had affected the water and that customers had been telling her not to use the water. I immediately checked the news on my phone to confirm, but WOWK reported the chemical was non-toxic. So I thought it was no big deal. I called our employee back to let her know not to worry, but she then informed me that WV was in a state of emergency. Once I googled that search term, I found out it was true. We had to stop all sales related to our water supply at the store, including coffee, cappuccino, and soft drinks.

Our next concern was how to get water deliveries to serve the customers needs. We have good relations with our vendors so we started by contacting our Pepsi & Coke drivers to bring extra water in their deliveries. On Friday morning I called one of our wholesalers, Ashland Specialty in Kentucky, to get water deliveries. They weren’t able to make extra deliveries, so my husband Tim made 3 trips to Ashland, Kentucky (a one hour drive from Winfield) in our personal vehicle to get water for our customers. I believe we made a good decision to do this. Otherwise, many of the people in our community would have been left without water for hours. My immediate family is lucky in one way because our home is in Mason County, one of the unaffected areas. We told our employees they are welcome to come to our home for showers.

I still can’t understand how we could be in such a terrible situation with a chemical spill that was not reported for hours. The people of WV should have been alerted much sooner. We are still waiting for our President to acknowledge our neglected state in a press conference. If they could tie this to terrorism the national news media would be all over this. We need a solution. No one in the news is talking about how badly this disaster is going to hurt the area’s economy. We are at a stand still. Businesses, schools, and local government are all affected. One of our local friends owns a restaurant and anticipates losing $20,000 this weekend if the water isn’t usable. This is enough to shut a small business down.