A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

One Seriously Angry Granny

By Linda Sodaro

Sometime last year, my good friend Kim and I had a conversation about the joys of a hot shower. The perfect temperature, with lovely handmade soap and standing there as long as we liked. She said, “I don’t think we’re always going to have that.”

Kim’s prophetic words came to pass Jan. 9, 2014, when Freedom Industries spilled [an initially] reported 6, 251 gallons of MCHM and PPH into the Elk River. My reaction upon hearing the news that Thursday went from zero to fury in the first five minutes. How could this have been allowed to happen? What were these chemicals and what would they do to us?

By Saturday, my anger had not abated and I knew I had to do something, so I sat quietly for awhile, breathing and asking myself what this feeling was about. And the answer rose up clearly before me. The Elk was MY river. My parents brought me home from the hospital to a one-bedroom trailer that was directly across the narrow expanse of the river from the site of the spill. I spent my first ten years in that trailer park, and the river was a constant in my life and a source of magic and wonder. How dare those b——- assault her this way? The wave of grief didn’t hit until Sunday morning as I lay in bed after awakening. It was a powerful, cleansing outpouring and I felt somewhat better afterward.

Emotions aside, there remained the practical matters of life without water to be dealt with. Water distribution sites were set up in our town and we didn’t have a problem with getting it; however as I write this, distribution centers have been shut down. I am out of step with the new rhythm of life — having to heat water for washing dishes and sponge baths, leaving the house loaded down like a mule to do laundry and shower at a friend’s house.

We did the prescribed flushing procedure and it has not worked, in fact it made us feel sick. The water still reeks of what I call genetically modified blueberries. I wake with a daily headache and my nose is bloody most all the time. The thing that scares me most is that I am certain that this was in the water long before residents discovered the spill. I tasted and smelled it around the second week of December, but I just thought the filter on my water pitcher needed to be changed.

How fortunate we are that MCHM has an odor! Otherwise we might never have known this chemical was poisoning our water.

Linda Sodaro is one seriously pissed off granny living in South Charleston, W.Va.