You probably have a favorite waterway near your home where you like to cast a fishing line, paddle with friends, or swim with your children. For me, it’s the North Fork of the Moormans River, a lively mountain creek running off the Blue Ridge.
Over the last several weeks, with each report from our staff on the coal-related water crises in West Virginia and North Carolina, I couldn’t help but imagine the Moormans being poisoned by a mysterious chemical called MCHM, choked by toxic coal ash, or fouled by coal slurry.
In fact, it is my river that is threatened. And your river, too. We are all potential casualties of the kind of regulatory failures, political cronyism, and corporate avarice at the root of the three major water pollution crises that have occurred in our region in just the last six weeks.
By the same token, it’s our shared connection to the creeks and rivers running through our lives that unites us in the fight to protect our waters, and that’s what gives me hope.
First, the Freedom Industries chemical spill last month near Charleston, W.Va., left 300,000 people without safe tap water. Then one of Duke Energy’s coal ash dumps in North Carolina spilled into the Dan River, the third largest coal-ash spill in the U.S. Just a week later, a pipe at a Patriot Coal facility in West Virginia broke, oozing toxic coal slurry into a tributary of the Kanawha River.
Any one of these events would have served as a wake-up call about the vulnerability of our waters. Combined, they have touched off a national conversation about the widespread and deep cracks in the system that led to the disasters.
Appalachian Voices is a prominent voice in that conversation. Our team of water quality specialists responded to each crisis, taking water samples, documenting the incident, speaking with local residents, and providing the press with information and perspective that counters the “everything’s fine” mantra from the corporate and government flaks.
Our aim is to ensure that these spills are not allowed to pass into the nation’s distant memory without impelling real change in how our precious water resources are protected.
For our waters,