Responses to my recent blog, West Virginia Girl, All Bottled Up, have been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. Your remarks and feedback have given me, and many others, a lot of hope for a cleaner future and I can not thank you enough for sharing, reposting, and getting the word out!
I would like to share with you a bit more of my story, as well as a few of the links and thoughts that have been brought to my attention over the past few days.
I cannot claim to be a daughter of coal, however I am without a doubt a daughter (and granddaughter) of the ‘Chemical Valley’. Both my father and two grandfathers have built a career and life from the success of the Chemical Industry in West Virginia.
Growing up during the boom of Union Carbide, now Dow Chemical, my family has much to be thankful for, including the chemical industry itself. This industry helped raise me: financially, educationally, and socially; they provided my Dad with a very stable salary and benefits. He worked hard (in a sometimes dangerous industry) and came home with dirty hands, but was always able to put food on the table, allow my mom to stay home with us kids, and even take a hefty amount of vacation so that we could spend quality time together. The industry itself has never before left me scared for my well-being.
Yes, I grew up practicing ‘Shelter in Place’, a safety procedure in schools, similar to a fire drill, but for chemical leaks. Rather than exiting the building, we would walk single file to the most secure room (usually a hallway or gymnasium) and the faculty would then seal all doors and openings.
And yes, occasionally a valley-wide alarm would sound signaling a REAL ‘Shelter in Place’ and we would proceed, as practiced, until the alarm was lifted and we were told the air was safe.
AND YES, I have worried for my own Father’s safety from time to time. Here in the ‘Chemical Valley’ most all of us have known someone who was injured or even killed on account of accidents of the chemical industry.
However, I always felt comfort in knowing that I was informed, that there were alarms, and that the chemical plants were taking all necessary precautions to insure my safety and the safety of my family.
What happened two weeks ago was entirely different:
There was NO alarm, there was NO shelter in place, and there was NO hard information provided until hours after the spill. ‘Freedom Industries’ did NOT report the accident, in fact, many residents SMELLED a problem before they were INFORMED of a problem.
I was baffled that 3 hours prior to my search our news read ‘water source not affected’, and 11 minutes prior to my search, Governor Tomblin had issued a STATE OF EMERGENCY, WATER BAN.
Recently I heard a very crude, but very honest, statement saying “West Virginians have Stockholm Syndrome”.
This is extreme. It is also a terrifying reality.
West Virginians have been abused and treated so poorly by ‘big-money’, and our ‘job-supplying’ industries that we have completely lost the big picture. It is quite true that much of our state praises the ‘industry’ and has such strong emotional, financial, and political ties that they would never utter a bad word against the hand that has always fed them.
Several people have advised me to “get out”, “find a place that agrees with your way of life, health, and safety”… And while this appears to be advice worth considering, I can’t help but wonder…
What gets left behind??
Just because I leave WV, does not mean that the irresponsibility of one of my states’ primary industries goes away. All it means is that it gets pushed to the back of another citizen’s mind, and is then one step further from being resolved.
This is such a complex issue, and unfortunately, I am positive that the Chemical Spill in West Virginia is just the tip of the iceberg for environmental hazards in our country and in our world.
Personal ties to my state and family have made it easy for me to share my story and reach an audience larger than I even dreamed possible. I thank you all so much for your concerns, support, prayers, help, and information. Please don’t stop here. Get involved where you can, and always remember that YOU must be the change.
Here are just a few of the helpful links that have been sent my way:
Friends of Water:
Bottled Water info:
Stories from the WV Chemical Spill:
Climate Ground Zero