A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Across Appalachia

Injustices Follow Elk River Chemical Spill

By Kimber Ray

For many in West Virginia whose water was contaminated by Freedom Industries this past January, the $11,000 fine issued against the company by federal officials in July demonstrated the failure of state and federal officials to demand corporate accountability.

In a Charleston, W. Va., prison, inmates are reporting that they had to choose between dehydration and drinking the contaminated tap water. Although the jail initially reported that inmates were supplied eight bottles of water a day, later investigation revealed that inmates sometimes had as little as a single bottle of water each day.

At press time, no action has been taken against jail officials.

Also in July, evidence emerged that the spill may have caused a greater health impact than initially indicated. Research funded by the National Science Foundation found that MCHM — the primary chemical that contaminated the water of 300,000 West Virginians — is significantly more toxic to aquatic life than the manufacturer had reported. The implications for human health are still being evaluated.

Cleanup of the Freedom Industries site is underway, and the public had a deadline of Aug. 1 to file claims against the company.

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