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Robert Stiver was unable to find water at that and at least a dozen other stores in the area and worried about how he'd make sure his cats had drinkable water.

"I'm lucky. I can get out and look for water. But what about the elderly? They can't get out. They need someone to help them," he said.

In the first hours after the spill, residents concerned about potential health effects deluged the West Virginia Poison Center with calls. Adler said about 50 people called with queries about keeping goats, chicken and other farm animals safe from exposure.

Oh, and four people are hospitalized, hundreds have seen doctors with symptoms like headaches and nausea, and if my Facebook friends are correct, the smell from the taps is still making people feel awful.    So I thought I would share what is going on here in the mountain state in a way folks here can relate to.  So for more about how bridges are affected, follow below the orange squiggle.

Charleston WV has lots of bridges- the Kanawha  (pronounced Can Aaw) River meets the Elk River here and it also drains the Coal River which drains a lot of mining areas.  All those lovely white water rafting areas and snow slopes in the tourism friendly part of the state drain into the Kanawha along with the mountaintop removal areas of Logan county.  The Kanawha drains into the Ohio to the northwest, at Point Pleasant.  You will be familiar with this town because of Mothman and the collapse of the Silver Bridge.

Here is a Google map of the affected area, with important points mapped.  link Zoom in on the map near the 64/77 split and you will see the Freedom Industry tanks along the south side of the Elk.

West Virginia American water gets its water from the Elk River, which is generally one of the cleaner water areas.  It is filled with unique crayfish and endangered fishes as well as a lot of diversity- mostly upstream of the spill site.  The Diamond Darter in the Elk was recently listed as endangered this summer (Thanks Obama!) and 122 miles of the Elk will now be protected as a result.  

So it makes sense to get the water for the region from the cleaner Elk than from the Kanawha, which has a lot of coal barge traffic and drains more mining areas.  But Charleston is also full of chemical plants.  Zoom in to South Charleston and Blaine Island and you will see lots of chemical plants.  This area is called Chemical Valley- and frankly, chemical plant jobs are pretty good jobs.  Folks are engineers and chemists and pretty well paid.  There are some safety issues of course, but generally folks are used to this industry in their backyard.  It has been here for most of a century.  The reason a neighboring town was called Nitro is that the nitroglycerin plant was there for the munitions industry.  WV made a lot of WW II's ammunition.  The plants are there because of the water, the cheap energy and the coal provides the cheap energy.

So it is an uneasy alliance, chemicals, coal and commerce.  And Government- Charleston is the capitol and the biggest city- about 50,000.  It is also officially the most depressed, worst city in the country to live in.  Huntington WV was worst last year and Charleston was second worst, so yeah Huntington.  

I live in Huntington for the last 15 years and teach at Marshall University in a science field.  My research includes toxicology of chemicals in water, but I am not a chemist by trade.  And I go to Charleston at least once a month to go to Mountain Stage, an NPR radio show.  I go to Vandalia Gatheringand Festivall.  I am a member of Create WV, a grassroots organization devoted to improving the cultural and entrepreneurship aspects of West Virginia and make it more livable.  I participate in BIO WV to help develop a biotechnology industry in my state, and am a founder of a small company run by my graduates which makes DNA for genetic testing and educational science kits.  

I am a member of OVEC the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.  This is a great organization working to clean up the water and air of the Ohio River Valley and preserve the mountains of our region.  If you want to get to the truth, send them some love and funds.  Just  bookmark their site and read what is going on here.  

So it is breaking my heart to see the damage to my adopted state over this terrible water disaster.  There are so many hard working progressive people trying to make this a better place, and help the youth of our state become educated to create the jobs of the future.  So don't laugh at us and tell us we are the problem for not voting for better politicians.  Don't mock us and tell us we never take showers anyway and lack teeth so we don't need to brush them.  And yes, that is what people all around the country and the world are saying in their comments to these news stories.

When you are trying to make a place better to live in, and it faces a big setback like this, it is heartbreaking.  All of us  are discouraged and need a pep talk to keep working for change, not a mini lecture from the progressive blogosphere about how we deserve our fate.  So if that is your intended comment in this diary, just spare me and move on to a Bridgeghazi diary.  So if you want to bitch about coal mining and Koch industries, go ahead.  Tell us how crappy fracking is.  But keep the slamming of the workers to a minimum.

This is a place to try and figure out what is happening in a rolling crisis and see if this mess can be leveraged for progressive change.   If you can give links or just sign if and tell us your experiences if you are affected by this terrible event, please help out.

Remember the EPA and Earth Day originated because the Cuyahoga River burned in Cleveland.  Maybe this will be West Virginia's wake up call to what is in the water.  I'll sign off with Hazel Dickens singing "West Virginia My Home"

updated to a better link.

2:59 PM PT: The ban is still on for several more days.  links to water

And please note the irony that the House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act the same day as the leak "that would ultimately eliminate requirements for the Environmental Protection Agency to review and update hazardous-waste disposal regulations in a timely manner, and make it more difficult for the government to compel companies that deal with toxic substances to carry proper insurance for cleanups, pushing the cost on to taxpayers.

In addition, the bill would result in slower response time in the case of a disaster, requiring increased consultation with states before the federal government calls for cleanup of Superfund sites - where hazardous waste could affect people and the environment."

Originally posted to murrayewv on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 05:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Appalachian Journal.

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