Dear Friends (of WATER),

IMAG0714Responses 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.

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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 snapped this screen-shot of a google search on my phone January 9th (the day of the spill) at 7:38pm.
2014-01-09_18-37-59

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.

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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.

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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.

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Here are just a few of the helpful links that have been sent my way:

Friends of Water:

https://www.facebook.com/friendsofwater14

Bottled Water info:

http://free.sourcemap.com/view/5570#stop-14

Stories from the WV Chemical Spill:

http://whatshappeninginwv.tumblr.com/

Hydrant Readings:

http://www.dhsem.wv.gov/Documents/OPERATION%20LOG%20Non%20Detect%2010ppb%20as%20of%201555%20hours%2021JAN2014.pdf

Climate Ground Zero

http://climategroundzero.net/

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West Virginia Girl, All Bottled Up

“We are not going to change our life because of the Water Company”…

This post is a little different than my usual, but then again, my life is a little different than usual.Image

As I walked into one of my favorite coffee shops in town today, I cautiously asked, “Are you still using bottled water?”  The cashier politely responded, “No, sorry, we are not” So I longingly looked at the perfect slice of tiramisu behind the glass and replied, “Ok, that changes things then, I will just have a bottle of water”.  I then took my water, reserved my usual seat, and jaunted to the restroom.  As I left the restroom, I imeadiately realized that I needed to dig out my own personal stash of hand sanitizer before unscrewing the cap of my bottled water and pulling out my laptop to work.

As I settled in, I began to reflect on the past 2 weeks:

From the announcement that Freedom Industries had a chemical spill, to my church providing my husband and I with bottled water, to the national media seeming to ONLY report on Chris Christie while my home state was in a panic, to my ‘zone’ being cleared for the ‘big flush’, to the steam from my dish washer burning my nose, to my husband and basement being covered in contaminated water after a valve broke on our hot water tank during the ‘flush’, to only having 3 showers in 13 days, to seeing the flashing warning on national television for pregnant women to, once more, discontinue use of tap water, to the pile of dirty dishes in my sink, to the loads and loads of laundry that need done, to yesterday’s conversation with my OB, reminding me to stay away from the water at all costs until more information is released, I realized that this is A LOT BIGGER than my 34 week pregnant self having to turn down a tiramisu craving.

I no longer feel safe bathing, drinking, eating, cleaning, I am even leery of the hospital visit I know WILL occur in the next 6 weeks, and I am even more concerned about how I will wash my little one’s clothes, or give him/her a bath, or the dangers that could occur if I make one mistake while breastfeeding.  I am worried for the health of my unborn baby, and I am worried that my life will never be the same.

As these thoughts flashed through my head at 100 miles per hour, I overheard the sweet cashier remind her boss that people were continuing to ask about the coffee shop’s water source.  At first her boss explained their machinery to her. He described the filtration system and hot temperatures that the water was raised to before dispensing, but then he followed by saying this: “We are not going to change our life because of the Water Company”…

Well, I would agree that this situation is much larger than West Virginia American Water, and believe it or not, it is even larger than Freedom Industries, although their name does imply that they would be much more concerned about my inability to consume water on their behalf.

I realize that there have been many, many oversights on local and national levels, and that I am nowhere near educated enough to point fingers at exactly who is responsible.  But here is what I DO know:

I am 34 weeks pregnant, and as I approach delivery I am closer and closer to NEEDING a safe water source every day, and despite my favorite coffee shops’ “life not changing” I am scared in knowing that my life and ‘freedoms’ HAVE changed dramatically in the past 13 days, I am terrified that I do not see an end in sight, and I am even more terrified that local businesses, politicians, and the  government as a whole seem far more concerned about getting back to ‘business as usual’, than they do for the health and safety of my community.

I am not sure exactly where to go from here, or what action this extremely pregnant and distraught girl can take to truly make a difference, but I would like to let everyone reading this know that life HAS CHANGED for me, and it may never be the same.

Please, get out there, share this news, and do what YOU can to help protect our country’s PRIORITIES and WATER SOURCES.