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Opinion: Patience runs dry in West Virginia

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The West Virginia water crisis is nearing a week, and residents of the Mountaineer State are growing impatient. Wouldn’t you, after going seven days without agua?

The water became unsanitary after the West Virginia American Water Co. spilled chemicals into the Elk River, contaminating the water and affecting nearly 300,000 state residents.

According to CNN’s Michael Pearson and Ed Payne, residents of nine counties were encouraged to stay away from using water after 7,500 gallons of methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) — used to clean coal — leaked into the river. Even before entering the river, there had not been clear communication to West Virginia residents as to exactly how harmful the chemicals could be.

The flushing process for many in the state has begun, and residents have reason to be optimistic. However, if I were a West Virginian, I would be irate about this whole situation.

Coal is a way of life in Appalachia, particularly in West Virginia. It means jobs. If I were a family located in or around the Kanawhas Valley or Charleston, I would be frustrated with how close the water company’s dangerous chemicals are to the Elk River. Dangerous chemicals having the potential to harm the water supply? It’s something no one should stand for.

Do not bathe, do not brush your teeth and do not wash your garments. Kind of a rough thing to ask of people when they come to expect these things as part of their daily life.

This situation also raises questions about the possible need for the state to think of better energy creation techniques. This might be something that escapes many at the national level, but is it not time to move away from coal and fossil fuels? Continued dependency on these fuels results not only in chemicals being leaked into the atmosphere (I don’t feel there’s a need to make a case for global warming/climate change in this case), but they also pose potentially harmful environments.

West Virginians need to demand change. Government officials who knew about the proximity and potential danger of these chemicals to the water supply have to own up and pledge better courses of action for future storage of such chemicals.

Credit is to be given to public works, law enforcement and some government agencies for their responses to this situation, but the possibility of such a problem should not even be an issue.

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