The 7,500 gallons of chemicals spilt into the Elk River in West Virginia that led to 300,000 people being without water for 5 days, has barely made a blip on the national radar. Sadly. After 5 days one third of those folks are being allowed to use their water again. But should they?
Nine counties found themselves at the mercy of their choices to allow unregulated Koch Industries to house a chemical storage plant two miles upstream from the major water treatment facility that had been privatized and centralized. Thanks to loose regulatory laws and machinations, the tank that ruptured had not been inspected since 1991. And the disclosures on the chemicals housed there were few and far between. As as storage location, they didn't have to play by the same rules, it seems.
The chemicals, used in cleaning of coal for use, are so toxic that people were told to use their water for no more than flushing toilets.
Imagine if you will, such a similar scenario here in WNC. Nine counties being told to not use water for 5 or more days. No water. No brewing, no showers. And one of those things would affect Asheville far more than the other in many cases, granted.
As we sit here, looking at the state's plans to privatize the Asheville water, I can't help but see a huge warning sign coming out of this West Virginia crisis. Add to that, our area's recent utilities related incidents, from the MSD sewage spew into the French Broad River (7 million gallons compared to the 7500 in chemicals in WV) and the rupture of the gas line near Sand Hill Road on Friday.
Things happen. Accidents are not intentional, typically, but there are ways to lessen the chances. Inspections and regulations are a key part to trying to prevent things like this from happening.
It should be no surprise that John Boehner has come out saying that there are too many regulations in place and we need fewer, even though Ohio is not that far from West Virginia, and this sort of incident is not something that can't happen anywhere that these sorts of situations exist (which is pretty much across the country.)
It should be no surprise that Koch Industries rolled out a Rep to talk to the media, who was seen on camera drinking bottled Aquafina water, while 300,000 people were at severe risk from their drinking water because of a chemical spill from Koch's Freedom Industries and their accident.
It is telling that reports from citizens are what led to the discovery, and not any official at the site in question.
As pointed out by some, we have to wonder if this would be taken more seriously if it was suspected to be a terrorist attack. And now, we have a great tremplate for future such attacks by people wishing ill on America. How easy we are making it to poison the water supply in short order for huge chunks of population.
We even had a calller from New Jersey, yesterday, who went down Conspiracy lane and supposed that this could be a great FEMA or other Government type "dress rehearsal" for response and containment.
As of today, some questions are being raised and investigations are being set in motion.
I'm just not so sure we should continue this post mortem approach to safety of our water/air/land/etc. Waiting until after the crisis has happend before considering the possibility of a potential crisis is no way to lead or live.