On The Anniversary Of The Elk River Chemical Spill, West Virginians Tell Their Stories

January 9, 2015 marks the anniversary of the West Virginia chemical spill in the Elk River, in which thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical used to process coal spilled upstream from a water treatment plant serving the state capital, Charleston, and surrounding areas. Around 300,000 West Virginia residents were left without potable water as officials scrambled to purge the chemical, known as MCHM, from the supply.

Residents were told not to use the water for anything other than flushing toilets or extinguishing fires. In some areas, the do-not-use order lasted for 10 days. Those affected by the spill told The Huffington Post that buying bottled water ate into already tight household budgets.

They were also instructed to run their faucets to flush their home plumbing systems of traces of the chemical, which has a sweet, licorice-like odor. A new study from Purdue University found that officials’ recommendations overlooked the risks of MCHM inhalation and West Virginians suffered adverse health effects from flushing their homes’ water.

Four executives of Freedom Industries, the company whose tanks leaked the chemical, were indicted in December for negligence and criminal violation of the Clean Water Act. “It’s hard to overstate the disruption that results when 300,000 people suddenly lose clean water,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said at the time. The company’s president, Gary Southern, and two other executives pleaded not guilty this week, one day ahead of the anniversary.

Individuals who were impacted by the spill share their stories…


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