Across Appalachia

Two-year Anniversary of Charleston Water Crisis

Date: February 17, 2016

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By Elizabeth E. Payne

On January 9, 2014, 10,000 gallons of a toxic chemical, MCHM, spilled from a Freedom Industries tank into the Elk River near Charleston, W.Va., leaving 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water.

Two years later, a report released by Boston Action Research on Jan. 7 found that West Virginia American Water, the company providing water to 40 percent of West Virginians, was not prepared to handle the Freedom Industries spill and “continues to be unprepared for a major spill today.”

The state’s Public Service Commission, which is overseeing the long-stalled investigation into the disaster, released an order on Dec. 31 questioning whether and how it should pursue its inquiry without overlapping with a state Senate bill passed following the spill. Comments filed on Jan. 19 by environmental and business groups urged the investigation to continue.

And on Jan. 8, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia gave notice of its intent to sue the state on behalf of inmates of the South Central Regional Jail. The complaint alleges that inmates did not have access to enough safe drinking water between Jan. 9 and 14, 2014, and that their civil rights were violated during the water crisis.

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