Big Coal’s War on Water: West Virginia Residents Fleeing Toxic Water

February 10, 2014

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller on West VA water supply – recently contaminated by spillage of coal industry chemicals: I wouldn’t drink the damn stuff.

15 Responses to “Big Coal’s War on Water: West Virginia Residents Fleeing Toxic Water”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    “You wouldn’t drink the damn stuff”?

    Then your choices may be to buy bottled water (that you may not be able to afford) or leave the state. Joint the new waves of 21st. century “Okie”-type migrants—the “Callifornies” who will be trying to escape drought, for instance, or the “Dannies” who can’t drink their Dan River water any more. Maybe we can call them and the WV group the “Coalies”—-coal has already driven lots of folks off the land in many places anyway.

    We here in northern VA and the DC area are quietly watching the Potomac River, from which we get much of our drinking water. The Potomac comes down from the “nicer” mountains of eastern WV, and is fed by the Shenandoah as well. It does not have the chemical plants or coal impact that you will find in the western part of WV, but does have its problems—-mercury from industrial activity on the Shenandoah, mine drainage from western MD and PA, and agricultural runoff that includes antibiotics and hormones from the poultry and pig farms in the Shenandoah and WV. (And one of the WV politicians says “we need more pigs”?)

    The annual report from our water utility (public) says “Be Happy, Don’t Worry” and points out how much better than “acceptable” our water is. You can also pick up the WashPost and read about how male smallmouth bass are developing female reproductive organs as well as male and how the upper reaches of the rivers experience massive fish kills on occasion. “Tests” have been “inconclusive” as to why that’s happening, of course, because they really don’t test for everything or understand what many of the chemicals do—-the same dilemma as they’re facing in WV.

    We need more Senator Rockefellers. He gets it.


  2. As a West Virginia politician, Senator Rockefeller walks a mighty fine line:

    “He successfully fought to put clean coal on the same footing as other alternative fuel sources, such as biodiesel and ethanol, and he’s authored legislation that would jump-start the development of an environmentally sound coal-to-liquids program aimed at providing transportation fuels to power trucks, cars and airplanes. Additionally, Senator Rockefeller has championed federal investments in the research and technology needed to tackle the greatest challenge of the 21st century – carbon capture and sequestration.”

    “When done right, mountaintop mining is a critical component of the economy of West Virginia. It provides good-paying jobs, flat land for development, and coal to help fuel the nation’s electricity.”

    http://www.rockefeller.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/coal

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yes, he does walk a ‘mighty fine line”, but can you imagine what would be going on if he were replaced by a really right wing nut-case?. He must do what he must do to get elected, but it could be worse. At least he’s making the right noise on the chemical spill.

  3. jimbills Says:

    Besides drinking it, they have to bathe and shower in it. Chemicals in tap water can be ingested, but they can also be inhaled (especially during hot showers) and they can be absorbed dermally, too.

    This is a recent article from West Virginia, concerning increased levels of trihalomethanes:
    http://www.kbtx.com/news/local/headlines/Wellborn-Water-District-Issues-H2O-Alert-to-Residents–242858231.html

    The article only mentions the dangers of drinking it. I’m not sure if this case is directly related to the recent West Virginia spill – it could be a separate incident.

    One study on trihalomethane absorption and inhalation during showers:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969708011480

  4. Alan Olson Says:

    Going to Colorado for my mind…


  5. One month later, experts hedge on drinking the water.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/10/west-virginia-water-hearing/5362353/
    Jeff McIntyre, head of West Virginia American Water, said the water is in compliance with all safety standards — and that he doesn’t set those standards. Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, told the panel it’s difficult to say what levels are safe because the chemical involved has drawn so little study.
    Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said it appeared that no one was willing to state unequivocally that the water was safe, possibly for fear of liability issues.
    Scientific American – what little we can tell, it’s not acutely toxic. If it was, we would see a high fatality count. It’s unbelievable. The coal ash slurry and chemicals are worse. This is an industry that messes up water.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-dangerous-is-the-chemical-spilled-in-west-virginia/

    • jimbills Says:

      There’s a recent report from the WHO. They expect worldwide cancer cases to go up 57% in the next 20 years:
      http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/04/health/who-world-cancer-report/

      The media is saying this is mostly due to ‘lifestyle’ factors – like smoking, drinking, eating habits, exercise, and failure to early detect – but these factors changed dramatically around the 1970s in the Western world, and they haven’t changed much since then.

      I’d expect a significant rise in cancers in developing countries as they adopt a Western lifestyle, and as the world population’s median age increases, but an additional and unpublicized explanation would be what we’re exposed to environmentally (the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe).

      The recent water pollution stories aren’t about killing a person outright. They’re about what will happen over time to those who are more susceptible to diseases.

  6. redskylite Says:

    Country Roads take me home:


  7. […] 2014/02/10: PSinclair: Big Coal’s War on Water: West Virginia Residents Fleeing Toxic Water […]


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