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Dribbles and Grits to Crumpets and Bollocks: West Virginia Licorice Water: The gossip, the news, my opinion

West Virginia Licorice Water: The gossip, the news, my opinion

I'm about to get serious with some grits again, and for those who don't know my blog, I am brutally honest with a potty mouth. That's not a threat. That's a warning.

I'm not sure if you are aware, but I'm in West Virginia, and we've had our own share of national attention this week. Don't worry, I'm ok. I'm up river from all this.

Outside of the crazy that brought this to us, (you weren't worried about me were you..) I am yes annoyed that it brought this to us because I picked to live in this state because it never gets national attention. It's just sitting here, hiding as the western part of Virginia to most of the country (we are our own state, but shhh, it's a secret), nestled in between some mountains just chilling. Crime rate is low here. The culture is kind. And the best part, the nature. We are covered in greenery for most of the year. If your AC doesn't work in your car, you can go to the mom and pop shops in the country and enjoy a cool drive on a hot, humid summer's day because of all the foliage and shade that surround the country roads.

And my favorite part of West Virginia are the country folk. The people in towns are different, like they are more like any person you will meet in the US of A, but our country folk are unique... I like that I can drive my hot mess of a car into the country with my kids getting out and some trash and sweater falls out the door with a kid and not one country bumpkin is going to judge or give a shit. I love the country folk. Their priorities are different. You are allowed to be human (another word for flawed) around them.

But our state I love for its nature did the most unnatural act this week. We peed in the river and poisoned the water supply.

I'm aware that urine is sterile. It's still gross.

I've been waiting to blog about it just to get the facts and the whole story. I mean I'm hearing a lot of gossip before they hit the media outlets, and from where I sit, something like, "This has been going on for a week before we were notified of the leak" sounds like a fact to me. A real journalist is smart and handles that sort of speculation as, "There's a class action lawsuit filed because people claimed it's been going on for a week before we were notified of the leak." Since I am not a real journalist, I'll do the best I can do...

Story Rundown, and it's long

Image from http://suzettebaileyrealtor.com/
Charleston is one of the few cities (small city to the rest of the world) in our state that collects people by the multitudes, and with that, a lot of businesses and jobs. So poisoning Charleston's water supply for a population of about 350,000 people is definitely going to be much more epic than poisoning that of the town just up stream, Ripley, population of about 3,000. That is why you are hearing about it. That is probably the only reason why you are hearing about it.

To sum it up, Freedom Industries leaked a very hazardous chemical into the river and totally contaminated the water, so 300,000 people just went like 4 plus days without water, not for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing hands, watering the lawn, feeding the pets, doing the dishes, no laundry, nothing. Well unless you need a fire to keep warm... There's much more details to the story, so let's get to that.

Doesn't it look like something out of the ghetto?
Freedom Industries is a company that provides a bunch of big words for things I've never heard of before, and that includes chemicals to assist in the coal mining process, and, in the heat of irony, water treatment. They had a big vat of stuff called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, and it was leaking into the Elk River.

Now the leak is the questionable thing, but from what I read, I think they knew about the leak, and their idea to fix it was to stick a cinder block over it with some powder. I don't think they had any intention on ever telling the public until they saw environmental inspectors and kind of had no choice. The reason I think that is, well this explains it best... though I do get more into that later...

"When state inspectors showed up unannounced at Freedom Industries to investigate a licorice odor wafting across West Virginia's capital city, company executive Dennis Farrell seemed to brush off any cause for concern.


But inspectors quickly found what was already contaminating the water for some 300,000 people: a chemical oozing from an above-ground tank and escaping through an old, cracked containment wall. A bag of absorbent material had been placed nearby and weighed down with a cinder block in a failed attempt to stop the flow.
"When they approached the tank, (Farrell) said they just discovered a leak," Jesse Adkins, the inspectors' supervisor, said."
From Huffington Post
The comments I read swore they smelled licorice in their water for a good week before any of this came public. In fact, the public became aware because of the water company down stream.
Many are like, "Why would you put a chemical facility up stream from your water supply?" Well the answer is, Jon Stewart, we didn't. Nope. We put the water supply down stream from a chemical facility, and honestly, you have no choice in this state. We have plants all along the river. They stretch throughout the whole state; there is no avoiding that. And they also leak interesting shit in the water. I can't tell you what they are leaking now, but for years, C8, the stuff in your Teflon, was in the water like it was ok for public consumption. These companies are notorious for waiting for the public to sue before doing much of anything about anything. 
But never have they dumped stuff in the water to make it this bad in my lifetime to my knowledge. The residents not only claim the water smells like licorice, but the air does because of the water. One of my friends had a migraine for days with a nosebleed from the smell alone. She has since headed up stream to stay with friends. 
"The American Association of Poison Control Centers says it’s harmful if swallowed or inhaled. MCHM can cause eye and skin irritation, nausea, and vomiting. More than 70 people have sought treatment for those symptoms since the contamination prompted President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency." From Bloomberg Businesweek

Frozen foods become scarce as people were not allowed
to cook with the water.
So once the water company put a ban on the water, of course, water became a valuable commodity. There are already reports of price gouging with this warning coming from the Attorney General's office. In addition, many sources from some private entities, government agencies and the National Guard supplied bottled water to the masses, but most people stood in line for hours to receive nothing. And because you cannot cook with this water, there was also a shortage of meals that didn't require water to make.



Meanwhile, people were suffering from conditions caused by the chemical seeking treatment from a hospital who can't use their water...
This is what they got from her lungs






One woman took a shower in the water before knowing it was tainted, and she received treatment from the emergency room. She was diagnosed with chemical induced pneumonitis, pneumonia in her right lung. She also experienced severe burning in her eyes, throat and mouth and a cough that sparked the ER visit.








Others have complained about rashes and blisters after the water ban was lifted. Before we get to all that...

So how did they come about handling the situation? Well, they guessed at "safe levels," and then flushed the system by dumping the chemically tainted water all over God's creation (because we all know the plants will love it).

The problem is, there has only been one study done with this chemical on rats, so we have no idea what is safe or how to safely make it safe. At least according to some of the sources...

Rich McGervey wasn't buying that bull shit, as his Facebook status says...

"I just got off the phone with an attorney friend, who formerly represented industry, and said she had some experience with THIS chemical, and was at a conference states away several years ago, with a bunch of toxicologists, who provided at least some information that long term exposure to this chemical, even in minute amounts, such as the less than 1ppm figure they are tossing around as safe enough to fire up the water system, can lead to health problems in the second generations. In other words, the children of people exposed. "

So what's it do to the water exactly? Besides making the water smell like a strong licorice, it makes the water flammable (contrary to whatever you hear about the chemical and it's flammability).

Link to a guy's Facebook video of it


You can find more searching in Youtube. One guy said he filled his tub with the water and lit it on fire. He said, "I should have video recorded it because it was awesome."

There are many pictures showing the gel like goopy substance this water has... Some before and some after the flushing.


Before the ban was lifted, this is the residue
left behind that started clogging this person's
drain.


This is from the Safe Zone















After the flushing and ban lifts, area by area, people are still skeptical of water usage...

This is from Mark E. Parsons-Justice. Thanks for contributing: "Just had to call the poison control hotline. Even after flushing our lines in zone 4, the water burned and blistered my hands. Poison Control said they are getting a lot of reports of this problem. They suggested washing or rinsing with bottled water, applying hydrocortisone or heavy hand lotion, and calling my doctor in the morning if it hasn't gone away. They said I could need burn cream. BE careful, friends!"



















































In addition, our state government is so competent (or maybe I should say unbiased free from getting paid by the industry, and I say this sarcastically) that...


Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have said they visited the storage facility as recently as 2012 to check on reports of the licorice odor associated with MCHM, but found nothing amiss. Randy Huffman, the department’s chief, has stressed during local television interviews, though, that as far as his agency is concerned, MCHM isn’t “hazardous” and doesn’t require any sort of special permitting. From Bloomberg Businessweek

Basically, this has been leaking since 2012? And it's not been considered hazardous? Is our Environmental Protection drinking the same water because I think they are and it caused brain damage.


So what's the deal with the bad guy? Freedom Industries. Yes they are bad guys.

How it all started... There is more before this happened and after, but this is the gist of it...

Freedom Industries traces its start back to 1992, when Carl Kennedy II filed the incorporation papers. Kennedy and Farrell owned a 50-50 stake in the venture, according to a legal claim that Freedom Industries filed years later against Kennedy. During its early years, the company sold chemicals designed to prevent airborne dust on coal haul roads. It averaged roughly $50,000 to $60,000 in annual revenue. From Huffington Post

What's the deal with Kennedy? 

The paper reported on Sunday that he (Kennedy) pleaded guilty in federal court in West Virginia in 2005 to tax evasion and was sentenced to three years in prison, a penalty that was reduced after he agreed to wear a wire and make controlled cocaine buys in a separate investigation. Kennedy had some background in the cocaine field; in 1987 he “pleaded guilty to selling between 10 and 12 ounces of cocaine in connection with a scandal that toppled then-Charleston Mayor Mike Roark,” the Gazette explained. Kennedy apparently no longer works at Freedom Industries. In another twist, Stover-Kennedy, Farrell’s friend and the Facebook defender of Freedom Industries, is Kennedy’s ex-wife, according to Gazette archives. From Bloomberg Businessweek

And what does Stover Kennedy say on her Facebook to defend Freedom? You know, the ex wife of Kennedy who is now bumping pelvises with Dennis Farrell (I assume they bump pelvises, she is his girlfriend; however, I'm not sure if they are going steady). I mean, these guys are now much more than business partners. They are almost blood brothers...



This is from the person who is USING the water. I'm amazed nobody has made any blond jokes over this.

Meanwhile, the President of Freedom Industries, Gary Southern, did an interview on television, the one she referred to, making a statement that didn't say shit from shit. If you want to watch a reporter not allow this man to dodge all the questions trying to cut the press conference short as he was chugging his bottled water, click here to watch it. Yes, he was drinking his bottled water bitching that he was tired to 300,000 people who went without water all day because of his dumbass.

Now the question is, inspections... Local gossip says that the facility wasn't really inspected much because they didn't make the chemical, they just housed it and distributed it. Freedom's website claims it produces some chemicals, which ones I'm not sure. According to this source, the terminal that caused the leak hasn't been inspected since 2001. Erin Brockovich and Jon Stewart says it hasn't been inspected since 1991. Both dates predate Freedom Industries; however, the company it was before Freedom seemed to have a lot of the same people involved. The point is, that vat of goop has not been inspected outside of people complaining about licorice tasting water since Freedom Industries was formed. Is that a coincidence you think?


On top of it, a previous employer said that the vat was cracked and instead of replacing it, they welded it. He speculated that what caused the leak was that there might of been moisture in the air parts of the welding job, and due to the severe cold weather we had (this is soon after temperatures have dropped to 0 degrees Fahrenheit) that somehow it cracked. He explained it much better than I am.

And now? The chemical goop in the river is travelling south.















Read more about that here, Wall Street Journal
As long as this post has gotten, there's still more to this story...

The lawsuits.

Local attorneys are already looking for people who experienced health issues, lost wages, lost business, and so forth. But this doesn't begin to cover the expense this negligence has caused. People are not being reimbursed for the sewage bill. They have to replace the filters in their homes. Like every resident probably qualifies for a piece of the lawsuit pie.

One local attorney, Cynthia Evans, a personal friend, also sells diet/health products as her main job now. She's only taking cases she wants to take, and she usually aims for school related and child related cases, mainly abuse. This is one she is taking as it has affected her personally. She is one tough woman who is well connected in the network of West Virginia, and I don't doubt she would do a great job representing people. If interested, you can contact her on her Facebook Here. 

Meanwhile, Erin Brockovich, that's right, the attorney portrayed by Julia Roberts, the environmental activist herself is here. In my state. Not putting up with any shit. This is what she said at a town meetin (yeah we still have those here)...

Just now near Charleston, WV
This is a rundown of the town hall meeting from this evening with Erin Brockovich and Robert Bowcock. The thing that sticks out most to me from the meeting- The last inspection on the facility (freedom industries) was in 1991--- any and all water filtration in your home must be replaced. this includes the filter in your keurig and your mr coffee coffee makers.. they are carbon and it is spent-- all of your appliance filters and whole home system filters must be replaced or you will continue to contaminate yourself--this can be filed as a home owners claim if you have insurance-- they are asking us to flush our pipes of the contaminated water..where is it going.. back into the system.. and you are flushing it with water that is still contaminated-- the only way to ensure the filtration at the intake is properly working and no longer contaminated is to have the charcoal removed and placed in an incinerator to have it re activated or replaced with new carbon-- the pipes on the system are old..therefore they are filled with that nasty ring of goop that you see when you look inside the pipe..this is actually a good thing..because that bacteria will "eat" the chemical--open the windows..let the fumes out--the fact that they are saying parts per million isnt acceptable..it should be parts per BILLION-- MOST IMPORTANT *** IN ORDER FOR THE WATER TO BE SAFE..IT SHOULD HAVE ZERO PARTS OF THIS CHEMICAL IN IT**** The chemical will not cause long term havoc on the environment because the bacteria will eat it.. at least a week of running through the system before they would even CONSIDER using it to shower or drink.. we need to start attending meetings at the pcs.. we can demand a hearing on this.. this was not an accident it was NEGLIGENT.. there was not an emergency plan in place for this chemical and there should have been based on its local to the water plant (up stream) the chemicals that the water company attempted to use to treat the chemical were not the correct chemicals..and acutally prob made it worse.. the chemical would not be removed by the current filtration system and if the carbon was the type that would filter this chemical..the carbon is now "spent" (meaning used up) it will not wash off it will not go away


That's probably the most important light on the subject rundown I've seen yet... Hopefully this will make a sequel for Julia Roberts.

In addition, Brockovich raises one important question and point. When do we start placing criminal charges on those responsible for epic scales of corporate irresponsibility?

My opinion...

West Virginia is probably one of the poorest states in the country. We need jobs. There are never enough jobs in this state, and what's out there pretty much sucks. You are looking at minimum wage, state jobs, and union jobs. That's about all our state offers.

For years we have been super friendly with the industry. We accept less wages than most people in the country would, for instance a Journeyman Electrician makes about 10 dollars an hour less than what they'd make in Colorado, and in some cases, you are looking at being a mechanic who is the only person who handles electrical work but you are not an electrician you are a mechanic, at less than half of what you'd make in another state.

Most importantly, we also offer flexible laws and dirty politicians. We are a state where everyone is pro-coal, and pro-let the corporation do whatever it wants we need the jobs. I would think it's safe to say that too many people of this state would rather we deal with the water situation and move on than worry about placing criminal charges, changing laws, or lawsuits because we are going to, quoting a resident of the state, scare off the other plants. Like would the new cracker plant open up if we sue Freedom Industries?

I think West Virginia needs to stop being the industry's bitch. Quit whoring yourself out for jobs. We are metaphorically standing on the street corners waving our purses looking for any takers to abuse us, harm us, put us in danger, just for a few dollars. We are not just whores to the industry, we are cheap five dollar whores. That's like a step down from your normal prostitutes.

Ask any union thug, and they fight hard for decent wages, decent benefits, and on the job safety, things corporations fight even harder back at avoiding. Things corporations would have to put up with if they were located any where else in the world. And how do they do it? They have friends in high places. State officials, government inspection authorities, all of them protect their customers better than any pimp on the block. Some do it for the money, some do it for the votes, and some do it out of sheer ignorance.


The only way we have to fight these corporate bastards are the lawsuits. If someone sues them, don't bitch at them and treat them like they are abusing the system for a free dime. They are trying to save your ass by fighting the system to make sure your water is safe to drink.

The other way we can fight... A. vote in smarter people who care. B. give them hell to make sure they are doing their jobs looking out for you over the corporations. Shit, this country treats corporations like they are the citizens and the people like they are second rate citizens mooching off the system (yeah that means you too you Republicans, you too are moochers asking for wages and benefits in exchange for labor). It's bassackwards, and part of that is your fault (as well as mine).

And it's not just the water. All the plants in the area put their workers at unnecessary risks to save a few dollars (while blowing a lot of it on bonuses for the assholes putting the employees at risk). They constantly get out of inspections, pay off inspectors, get through inspections... Cancer is higher in this area. As well as allergies and sinus infections. These plants are always dumping stuff into the environment, whether air or water, that make all of us wonder, that stink up the whole town for a few days, that makes the water kind of glow in the dark... Most people I know wouldn't dare swim in the Ohio River because the water is that nasty from the stuff being dumped in it.

I honestly don't want any new plants out here if they don't intend to follow safety regulations. If they don't intend to offer any sort of corporate responsibility whatsoever. We already drink water that is questionable. We already breathe air that is questionable. It has to stop at some point.

It is time we grow up and be responsible for our air, our water, and our own health. Anyone who stands up for these corporations are pissing in their children's beds and making them sleep in it.



FOR UPDATED INFORMATION on the crisis, including a map showing where the water ban is lifted and where it isn't, and tips for safely flushing your water, visit WSAZ. 


UPDATE:

Elk River leak included another chemical
The chemical that leaked into the water was a vat of CRUDE MCHM plus some PPH, and PPH can cause rashes. They learn about this 12 days after the leak. 

"Dorsey said Southern told him the company previously had been adding the PPH to its Crude MCHM mixture and had stopped doing so. Southern said he didn't realize that the company had resumed adding the PPH to the mixture, Dorsey said."

Thanks guys for the heads up. So glad we waited until everyone is like, "The water is safe now, wait I'm getting a burning rash WTF?" to tell us that. So glad our Environmental Protection people know what's in a vat sitting along the river. Good job guys keep it up. And the President was so doing his job, Murica style, capitalism at its best, with, "I had no idea that chemical was in there until now."  

Meanwhile...

Former West Virginia Miner: We've Been Dumping Those Chemicals In The Water For Decades

Oh, the coal mining companies, which according to many of our locals Freedom Industries is NOT a coal mining company so this doesn't include coal mining companies, oh wait it does because they have been tainting our water for decades. 

"Stanley says he lost his job after a conflict with management, when he, as union president, demanded an inquiry into certain chemicals that were being used in the mine. He claims that mine workers, particularly electricians and pinners, were getting sick."

"An Environmental Protection Agency assessment last year identified 132 cases where coal-fired power plant waste has damaged rivers, streams and lakes, and 123 where it has tainted underground water sources, according to an AP investigation by Dina Cappiello and Seth Borenstein. Nearly three quarters of the 1,727 coal mines in the U.S. have not been inspected in five years to see if they are following water pollution laws, according to the same investigation, which cites these and other alarming findings about coal pollution."

I kind of already knew this. We had the C8 incident. I am not stupid. I'm aware that the odds of something like tainting the water in this state, for it to go public, is probably 1 in every exorbitant number of incidents. I worry about my own water now, we are so far at we randomly try to light it on fire to make sure it's safe. I think I'm going to have to Google how to test my water and properly filter it so I know what I'm drinking. I hope it's in a YouTube video.

Anyway, since I wrote this blog post, while I'm updating, I sent Senator Joe Manchin the following Facebook message in response to his Clean Water Act he's proposing...
_____________________________________________________

The water they are declaring safe is far from safe. Erin Brockovich is the only one giving out decent advice on the subject, like shouldn't our government officials be using her expertise to help? We can't ensure that our government can respond to emergency situations. Are you going to add that to your plan? Maybe give more of that responsibility to our National Guard because nobody knows readiness better than our National Guard and military.
Meanwhile Freedom declared bankruptcy, but we all know they are far from broke. This is to protect assets from all the law suits. When Kennedy was arrested, he told everyone about the property these guys have overseas, like how do we get that into that pie? And Erin Brockovich brought up a great point, when do we start placing criminal charges for things like this? Because the law suits are fining them for you, and they are ducking as much of it as possible, much like they ducked the notification of the public, the safety of the water, the upkeep of their own assets, and all accountability for it... And fining them won't change it much because your fines are cheaper than them adhering to your policy. There should be no fines. You either do it, or you shut down all operations. That is what it should be.
IN addition, why does your plan say above ground facilities? The coal mines underground can do the same thing. If you care about your miners, you would put in policy designed to protect them, not their bosses. Who do you represent? The people or the corporations? Because last time I checked, corporations don't get to vote.
And who is going to police the police in your protection act?
"Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have said they visited the storage facility as recently as 2012 to check on reports of the licorice odor associated with MCHM, but found nothing amiss. Randy Huffman, the department’s chief, has stressed during local television interviews, though, that as far as his agency is concerned, MCHM isn’t “hazardous” and doesn’t require any sort of special permitting. From Bloomberg Businessweek"
They were just there. MCHM was in the water and they didn't notice last year. How long have our people been drinking this? We don't know. How sad is that we don't know? Are we going to hold Randy Huffman accountable for that? Or is their policy getting in the way of him doing his job?
And must we stop at water? We can choose to not drink the water. What about the air? When this happens to the air, what are we supposed to do? Hold our breath for the 2 weeks it takes for everyone to get their crap together? Are you guys going to send in FEMA to distribute gas masks for those who survived the 3 days it took them to get here? Don't wait for that disaster to strike to do anything about it. Show some initiative and put an environmental safety act all the way around.
I met a lot of interesting people campaigning for [a mutual friend]. I know the type of people you are stuck dealing with and their insecure, power seeking agendas, and I know the pressure you get from even your own association to raise funds. I am so sorry you put up with all that for our sake, but don't let it be in vain. Use your time you have where you are to put something in there that will protect your future generations. A legacy. That's something corporate greed can't buy you. There is no money in environmental protection to donate to your campaign, but someone has to do it. Someone has to be the grown up here.
Meanwhile, put some pressure on our governor to stop blaming the counties for things he's doing. Keep the water distribution centers going until this is all over. And we need to find a better way to clean the flushed water so that people can shower without having to smear themselves down with hydrocortisone cream afterwards. And we need to extend the warning for the "safe" water from just pregnant women to pregnant women and children. There are pediatricians telling them to do that, and they are ignoring the pediatricians. Are any of these politicians capable of performing surgery on a 5 year old? I didn't think so. They need to listen to the experts in the field. I can't tell if the problem is nobody knows what to do so they are avoiding it more than I avoid housework, or if their pockets are too thick with Freedom Industries' assets that it's cutting off the blood circulation to their brain... Or maybe they've been drinking the water and its affected brain function. Either way, our state officials dealing with it appear very incompetent to the public. Your act needs to address that as well.
Thank you so much for reading all this. I wish you the best.
________________________________________________________

And what is the clean water act thing he's proposing? Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act

Another great article...

Behind West Virginia’s Massive Chemical Spill, A History Of Poverty And Pollution

"“Freedom Industries should be held accountable, but that won’t fix the problem,” Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition in Charleston, wrote in the Charleston Gazette. “That’s because the Elk River spill wasn’t an isolated accident. It was the inevitable consequence of weak regulatory enforcement over many years, made possible by our collective failure to uphold the values we profess.”


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Dribbles and Grits to Crumpets and Bollocks: West Virginia Licorice Water: The gossip, the news, my opinion

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

West Virginia Licorice Water: The gossip, the news, my opinion

I'm about to get serious with some grits again, and for those who don't know my blog, I am brutally honest with a potty mouth. That's not a threat. That's a warning.

I'm not sure if you are aware, but I'm in West Virginia, and we've had our own share of national attention this week. Don't worry, I'm ok. I'm up river from all this.

Outside of the crazy that brought this to us, (you weren't worried about me were you..) I am yes annoyed that it brought this to us because I picked to live in this state because it never gets national attention. It's just sitting here, hiding as the western part of Virginia to most of the country (we are our own state, but shhh, it's a secret), nestled in between some mountains just chilling. Crime rate is low here. The culture is kind. And the best part, the nature. We are covered in greenery for most of the year. If your AC doesn't work in your car, you can go to the mom and pop shops in the country and enjoy a cool drive on a hot, humid summer's day because of all the foliage and shade that surround the country roads.

And my favorite part of West Virginia are the country folk. The people in towns are different, like they are more like any person you will meet in the US of A, but our country folk are unique... I like that I can drive my hot mess of a car into the country with my kids getting out and some trash and sweater falls out the door with a kid and not one country bumpkin is going to judge or give a shit. I love the country folk. Their priorities are different. You are allowed to be human (another word for flawed) around them.

But our state I love for its nature did the most unnatural act this week. We peed in the river and poisoned the water supply.

I'm aware that urine is sterile. It's still gross.

I've been waiting to blog about it just to get the facts and the whole story. I mean I'm hearing a lot of gossip before they hit the media outlets, and from where I sit, something like, "This has been going on for a week before we were notified of the leak" sounds like a fact to me. A real journalist is smart and handles that sort of speculation as, "There's a class action lawsuit filed because people claimed it's been going on for a week before we were notified of the leak." Since I am not a real journalist, I'll do the best I can do...

Story Rundown, and it's long

Image from http://suzettebaileyrealtor.com/
Charleston is one of the few cities (small city to the rest of the world) in our state that collects people by the multitudes, and with that, a lot of businesses and jobs. So poisoning Charleston's water supply for a population of about 350,000 people is definitely going to be much more epic than poisoning that of the town just up stream, Ripley, population of about 3,000. That is why you are hearing about it. That is probably the only reason why you are hearing about it.

To sum it up, Freedom Industries leaked a very hazardous chemical into the river and totally contaminated the water, so 300,000 people just went like 4 plus days without water, not for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing hands, watering the lawn, feeding the pets, doing the dishes, no laundry, nothing. Well unless you need a fire to keep warm... There's much more details to the story, so let's get to that.

Doesn't it look like something out of the ghetto?
Freedom Industries is a company that provides a bunch of big words for things I've never heard of before, and that includes chemicals to assist in the coal mining process, and, in the heat of irony, water treatment. They had a big vat of stuff called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, and it was leaking into the Elk River.

Now the leak is the questionable thing, but from what I read, I think they knew about the leak, and their idea to fix it was to stick a cinder block over it with some powder. I don't think they had any intention on ever telling the public until they saw environmental inspectors and kind of had no choice. The reason I think that is, well this explains it best... though I do get more into that later...

"When state inspectors showed up unannounced at Freedom Industries to investigate a licorice odor wafting across West Virginia's capital city, company executive Dennis Farrell seemed to brush off any cause for concern.


But inspectors quickly found what was already contaminating the water for some 300,000 people: a chemical oozing from an above-ground tank and escaping through an old, cracked containment wall. A bag of absorbent material had been placed nearby and weighed down with a cinder block in a failed attempt to stop the flow.
"When they approached the tank, (Farrell) said they just discovered a leak," Jesse Adkins, the inspectors' supervisor, said."
The comments I read swore they smelled licorice in their water for a good week before any of this came public. In fact, the public became aware because of the water company down stream.
Many are like, "Why would you put a chemical facility up stream from your water supply?" Well the answer is, Jon Stewart, we didn't. Nope. We put the water supply down stream from a chemical facility, and honestly, you have no choice in this state. We have plants all along the river. They stretch throughout the whole state; there is no avoiding that. And they also leak interesting shit in the water. I can't tell you what they are leaking now, but for years, C8, the stuff in your Teflon, was in the water like it was ok for public consumption. These companies are notorious for waiting for the public to sue before doing much of anything about anything. 
But never have they dumped stuff in the water to make it this bad in my lifetime to my knowledge. The residents not only claim the water smells like licorice, but the air does because of the water. One of my friends had a migraine for days with a nosebleed from the smell alone. She has since headed up stream to stay with friends. 
"The American Association of Poison Control Centers says it’s harmful if swallowed or inhaled. MCHM can cause eye and skin irritation, nausea, and vomiting. More than 70 people have sought treatment for those symptoms since the contamination prompted President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency." From Bloomberg Businesweek

Frozen foods become scarce as people were not allowed
to cook with the water.
So once the water company put a ban on the water, of course, water became a valuable commodity. There are already reports of price gouging with this warning coming from the Attorney General's office. In addition, many sources from some private entities, government agencies and the National Guard supplied bottled water to the masses, but most people stood in line for hours to receive nothing. And because you cannot cook with this water, there was also a shortage of meals that didn't require water to make.



Meanwhile, people were suffering from conditions caused by the chemical seeking treatment from a hospital who can't use their water...
This is what they got from her lungs






One woman took a shower in the water before knowing it was tainted, and she received treatment from the emergency room. She was diagnosed with chemical induced pneumonitis, pneumonia in her right lung. She also experienced severe burning in her eyes, throat and mouth and a cough that sparked the ER visit.








Others have complained about rashes and blisters after the water ban was lifted. Before we get to all that...

So how did they come about handling the situation? Well, they guessed at "safe levels," and then flushed the system by dumping the chemically tainted water all over God's creation (because we all know the plants will love it).

The problem is, there has only been one study done with this chemical on rats, so we have no idea what is safe or how to safely make it safe. At least according to some of the sources...

Rich McGervey wasn't buying that bull shit, as his Facebook status says...

"I just got off the phone with an attorney friend, who formerly represented industry, and said she had some experience with THIS chemical, and was at a conference states away several years ago, with a bunch of toxicologists, who provided at least some information that long term exposure to this chemical, even in minute amounts, such as the less than 1ppm figure they are tossing around as safe enough to fire up the water system, can lead to health problems in the second generations. In other words, the children of people exposed. "

So what's it do to the water exactly? Besides making the water smell like a strong licorice, it makes the water flammable (contrary to whatever you hear about the chemical and it's flammability).

Link to a guy's Facebook video of it


You can find more searching in Youtube. One guy said he filled his tub with the water and lit it on fire. He said, "I should have video recorded it because it was awesome."

There are many pictures showing the gel like goopy substance this water has... Some before and some after the flushing.


Before the ban was lifted, this is the residue
left behind that started clogging this person's
drain.


This is from the Safe Zone















After the flushing and ban lifts, area by area, people are still skeptical of water usage...

This is from Mark E. Parsons-Justice. Thanks for contributing: "Just had to call the poison control hotline. Even after flushing our lines in zone 4, the water burned and blistered my hands. Poison Control said they are getting a lot of reports of this problem. They suggested washing or rinsing with bottled water, applying hydrocortisone or heavy hand lotion, and calling my doctor in the morning if it hasn't gone away. They said I could need burn cream. BE careful, friends!"



















































In addition, our state government is so competent (or maybe I should say unbiased free from getting paid by the industry, and I say this sarcastically) that...


Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have said they visited the storage facility as recently as 2012 to check on reports of the licorice odor associated with MCHM, but found nothing amiss. Randy Huffman, the department’s chief, has stressed during local television interviews, though, that as far as his agency is concerned, MCHM isn’t “hazardous” and doesn’t require any sort of special permitting. From Bloomberg Businessweek

Basically, this has been leaking since 2012? And it's not been considered hazardous? Is our Environmental Protection drinking the same water because I think they are and it caused brain damage.


So what's the deal with the bad guy? Freedom Industries. Yes they are bad guys.

How it all started... There is more before this happened and after, but this is the gist of it...

Freedom Industries traces its start back to 1992, when Carl Kennedy II filed the incorporation papers. Kennedy and Farrell owned a 50-50 stake in the venture, according to a legal claim that Freedom Industries filed years later against Kennedy. During its early years, the company sold chemicals designed to prevent airborne dust on coal haul roads. It averaged roughly $50,000 to $60,000 in annual revenue. From Huffington Post

What's the deal with Kennedy? 

The paper reported on Sunday that he (Kennedy) pleaded guilty in federal court in West Virginia in 2005 to tax evasion and was sentenced to three years in prison, a penalty that was reduced after he agreed to wear a wire and make controlled cocaine buys in a separate investigation. Kennedy had some background in the cocaine field; in 1987 he “pleaded guilty to selling between 10 and 12 ounces of cocaine in connection with a scandal that toppled then-Charleston Mayor Mike Roark,” the Gazette explained. Kennedy apparently no longer works at Freedom Industries. In another twist, Stover-Kennedy, Farrell’s friend and the Facebook defender of Freedom Industries, is Kennedy’s ex-wife, according to Gazette archives. From Bloomberg Businessweek

And what does Stover Kennedy say on her Facebook to defend Freedom? You know, the ex wife of Kennedy who is now bumping pelvises with Dennis Farrell (I assume they bump pelvises, she is his girlfriend; however, I'm not sure if they are going steady). I mean, these guys are now much more than business partners. They are almost blood brothers...



This is from the person who is USING the water. I'm amazed nobody has made any blond jokes over this.

Meanwhile, the President of Freedom Industries, Gary Southern, did an interview on television, the one she referred to, making a statement that didn't say shit from shit. If you want to watch a reporter not allow this man to dodge all the questions trying to cut the press conference short as he was chugging his bottled water, click here to watch it. Yes, he was drinking his bottled water bitching that he was tired to 300,000 people who went without water all day because of his dumbass.

Now the question is, inspections... Local gossip says that the facility wasn't really inspected much because they didn't make the chemical, they just housed it and distributed it. Freedom's website claims it produces some chemicals, which ones I'm not sure. According to this source, the terminal that caused the leak hasn't been inspected since 2001. Erin Brockovich and Jon Stewart says it hasn't been inspected since 1991. Both dates predate Freedom Industries; however, the company it was before Freedom seemed to have a lot of the same people involved. The point is, that vat of goop has not been inspected outside of people complaining about licorice tasting water since Freedom Industries was formed. Is that a coincidence you think?


On top of it, a previous employer said that the vat was cracked and instead of replacing it, they welded it. He speculated that what caused the leak was that there might of been moisture in the air parts of the welding job, and due to the severe cold weather we had (this is soon after temperatures have dropped to 0 degrees Fahrenheit) that somehow it cracked. He explained it much better than I am.

And now? The chemical goop in the river is travelling south.








As long as this post has gotten, there's still more to this story...

The lawsuits.

Local attorneys are already looking for people who experienced health issues, lost wages, lost business, and so forth. But this doesn't begin to cover the expense this negligence has caused. People are not being reimbursed for the sewage bill. They have to replace the filters in their homes. Like every resident probably qualifies for a piece of the lawsuit pie.

One local attorney, Cynthia Evans, a personal friend, also sells diet/health products as her main job now. She's only taking cases she wants to take, and she usually aims for school related and child related cases, mainly abuse. This is one she is taking as it has affected her personally. She is one tough woman who is well connected in the network of West Virginia, and I don't doubt she would do a great job representing people. If interested, you can contact her on her Facebook Here. 

Meanwhile, Erin Brockovich, that's right, the attorney portrayed by Julia Roberts, the environmental activist herself is here. In my state. Not putting up with any shit. This is what she said at a town meetin (yeah we still have those here)...

Just now near Charleston, WV
This is a rundown of the town hall meeting from this evening with Erin Brockovich and Robert Bowcock. The thing that sticks out most to me from the meeting- The last inspection on the facility (freedom industries) was in 1991--- any and all water filtration in your home must be replaced. this includes the filter in your keurig and your mr coffee coffee makers.. they are carbon and it is spent-- all of your appliance filters and whole home system filters must be replaced or you will continue to contaminate yourself--this can be filed as a home owners claim if you have insurance-- they are asking us to flush our pipes of the contaminated water..where is it going.. back into the system.. and you are flushing it with water that is still contaminated-- the only way to ensure the filtration at the intake is properly working and no longer contaminated is to have the charcoal removed and placed in an incinerator to have it re activated or replaced with new carbon-- the pipes on the system are old..therefore they are filled with that nasty ring of goop that you see when you look inside the pipe..this is actually a good thing..because that bacteria will "eat" the chemical--open the windows..let the fumes out--the fact that they are saying parts per million isnt acceptable..it should be parts per BILLION-- MOST IMPORTANT *** IN ORDER FOR THE WATER TO BE SAFE..IT SHOULD HAVE ZERO PARTS OF THIS CHEMICAL IN IT**** The chemical will not cause long term havoc on the environment because the bacteria will eat it.. at least a week of running through the system before they would even CONSIDER using it to shower or drink.. we need to start attending meetings at the pcs.. we can demand a hearing on this.. this was not an accident it was NEGLIGENT.. there was not an emergency plan in place for this chemical and there should have been based on its local to the water plant (up stream) the chemicals that the water company attempted to use to treat the chemical were not the correct chemicals..and acutally prob made it worse.. the chemical would not be removed by the current filtration system and if the carbon was the type that would filter this chemical..the carbon is now "spent" (meaning used up) it will not wash off it will not go away


That's probably the most important light on the subject rundown I've seen yet... Hopefully this will make a sequel for Julia Roberts.

In addition, Brockovich raises one important question and point. When do we start placing criminal charges on those responsible for epic scales of corporate irresponsibility?

My opinion...

West Virginia is probably one of the poorest states in the country. We need jobs. There are never enough jobs in this state, and what's out there pretty much sucks. You are looking at minimum wage, state jobs, and union jobs. That's about all our state offers.

For years we have been super friendly with the industry. We accept less wages than most people in the country would, for instance a Journeyman Electrician makes about 10 dollars an hour less than what they'd make in Colorado, and in some cases, you are looking at being a mechanic who is the only person who handles electrical work but you are not an electrician you are a mechanic, at less than half of what you'd make in another state.

Most importantly, we also offer flexible laws and dirty politicians. We are a state where everyone is pro-coal, and pro-let the corporation do whatever it wants we need the jobs. I would think it's safe to say that too many people of this state would rather we deal with the water situation and move on than worry about placing criminal charges, changing laws, or lawsuits because we are going to, quoting a resident of the state, scare off the other plants. Like would the new cracker plant open up if we sue Freedom Industries?

I think West Virginia needs to stop being the industry's bitch. Quit whoring yourself out for jobs. We are metaphorically standing on the street corners waving our purses looking for any takers to abuse us, harm us, put us in danger, just for a few dollars. We are not just whores to the industry, we are cheap five dollar whores. That's like a step down from your normal prostitutes.

Ask any union thug, and they fight hard for decent wages, decent benefits, and on the job safety, things corporations fight even harder back at avoiding. Things corporations would have to put up with if they were located any where else in the world. And how do they do it? They have friends in high places. State officials, government inspection authorities, all of them protect their customers better than any pimp on the block. Some do it for the money, some do it for the votes, and some do it out of sheer ignorance.


The only way we have to fight these corporate bastards are the lawsuits. If someone sues them, don't bitch at them and treat them like they are abusing the system for a free dime. They are trying to save your ass by fighting the system to make sure your water is safe to drink.

The other way we can fight... A. vote in smarter people who care. B. give them hell to make sure they are doing their jobs looking out for you over the corporations. Shit, this country treats corporations like they are the citizens and the people like they are second rate citizens mooching off the system (yeah that means you too you Republicans, you too are moochers asking for wages and benefits in exchange for labor). It's bassackwards, and part of that is your fault (as well as mine).

And it's not just the water. All the plants in the area put their workers at unnecessary risks to save a few dollars (while blowing a lot of it on bonuses for the assholes putting the employees at risk). They constantly get out of inspections, pay off inspectors, get through inspections... Cancer is higher in this area. As well as allergies and sinus infections. These plants are always dumping stuff into the environment, whether air or water, that make all of us wonder, that stink up the whole town for a few days, that makes the water kind of glow in the dark... Most people I know wouldn't dare swim in the Ohio River because the water is that nasty from the stuff being dumped in it.

I honestly don't want any new plants out here if they don't intend to follow safety regulations. If they don't intend to offer any sort of corporate responsibility whatsoever. We already drink water that is questionable. We already breathe air that is questionable. It has to stop at some point.

It is time we grow up and be responsible for our air, our water, and our own health. Anyone who stands up for these corporations are pissing in their children's beds and making them sleep in it.



FOR UPDATED INFORMATION on the crisis, including a map showing where the water ban is lifted and where it isn't, and tips for safely flushing your water, visit WSAZ. 


UPDATE:

Elk River leak included another chemical
The chemical that leaked into the water was a vat of CRUDE MCHM plus some PPH, and PPH can cause rashes. They learn about this 12 days after the leak. 

"Dorsey said Southern told him the company previously had been adding the PPH to its Crude MCHM mixture and had stopped doing so. Southern said he didn't realize that the company had resumed adding the PPH to the mixture, Dorsey said."

Thanks guys for the heads up. So glad we waited until everyone is like, "The water is safe now, wait I'm getting a burning rash WTF?" to tell us that. So glad our Environmental Protection people know what's in a vat sitting along the river. Good job guys keep it up. And the President was so doing his job, Murica style, capitalism at its best, with, "I had no idea that chemical was in there until now."  

Meanwhile...


Oh, the coal mining companies, which according to many of our locals Freedom Industries is NOT a coal mining company so this doesn't include coal mining companies, oh wait it does because they have been tainting our water for decades. 

"Stanley says he lost his job after a conflict with management, when he, as union president, demanded an inquiry into certain chemicals that were being used in the mine. He claims that mine workers, particularly electricians and pinners, were getting sick."

"An Environmental Protection Agency assessment last year identified 132 cases where coal-fired power plant waste has damaged rivers, streams and lakes, and 123 where it has tainted underground water sources, according to an AP investigation by Dina Cappiello and Seth Borenstein. Nearly three quarters of the 1,727 coal mines in the U.S. have not been inspected in five years to see if they are following water pollution laws, according to the same investigation, which cites these and other alarming findings about coal pollution."

I kind of already knew this. We had the C8 incident. I am not stupid. I'm aware that the odds of something like tainting the water in this state, for it to go public, is probably 1 in every exorbitant number of incidents. I worry about my own water now, we are so far at we randomly try to light it on fire to make sure it's safe. I think I'm going to have to Google how to test my water and properly filter it so I know what I'm drinking. I hope it's in a YouTube video.

Anyway, since I wrote this blog post, while I'm updating, I sent Senator Joe Manchin the following Facebook message in response to his Clean Water Act he's proposing...
_____________________________________________________

The water they are declaring safe is far from safe. Erin Brockovich is the only one giving out decent advice on the subject, like shouldn't our government officials be using her expertise to help? We can't ensure that our government can respond to emergency situations. Are you going to add that to your plan? Maybe give more of that responsibility to our National Guard because nobody knows readiness better than our National Guard and military.
Meanwhile Freedom declared bankruptcy, but we all know they are far from broke. This is to protect assets from all the law suits. When Kennedy was arrested, he told everyone about the property these guys have overseas, like how do we get that into that pie? And Erin Brockovich brought up a great point, when do we start placing criminal charges for things like this? Because the law suits are fining them for you, and they are ducking as much of it as possible, much like they ducked the notification of the public, the safety of the water, the upkeep of their own assets, and all accountability for it... And fining them won't change it much because your fines are cheaper than them adhering to your policy. There should be no fines. You either do it, or you shut down all operations. That is what it should be.
IN addition, why does your plan say above ground facilities? The coal mines underground can do the same thing. If you care about your miners, you would put in policy designed to protect them, not their bosses. Who do you represent? The people or the corporations? Because last time I checked, corporations don't get to vote.
And who is going to police the police in your protection act?
"Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have said they visited the storage facility as recently as 2012 to check on reports of the licorice odor associated with MCHM, but found nothing amiss. Randy Huffman, the department’s chief, has stressed during local television interviews, though, that as far as his agency is concerned, MCHM isn’t “hazardous” and doesn’t require any sort of special permitting. From Bloomberg Businessweek"
They were just there. MCHM was in the water and they didn't notice last year. How long have our people been drinking this? We don't know. How sad is that we don't know? Are we going to hold Randy Huffman accountable for that? Or is their policy getting in the way of him doing his job?
And must we stop at water? We can choose to not drink the water. What about the air? When this happens to the air, what are we supposed to do? Hold our breath for the 2 weeks it takes for everyone to get their crap together? Are you guys going to send in FEMA to distribute gas masks for those who survived the 3 days it took them to get here? Don't wait for that disaster to strike to do anything about it. Show some initiative and put an environmental safety act all the way around.
I met a lot of interesting people campaigning for [a mutual friend]. I know the type of people you are stuck dealing with and their insecure, power seeking agendas, and I know the pressure you get from even your own association to raise funds. I am so sorry you put up with all that for our sake, but don't let it be in vain. Use your time you have where you are to put something in there that will protect your future generations. A legacy. That's something corporate greed can't buy you. There is no money in environmental protection to donate to your campaign, but someone has to do it. Someone has to be the grown up here.
Meanwhile, put some pressure on our governor to stop blaming the counties for things he's doing. Keep the water distribution centers going until this is all over. And we need to find a better way to clean the flushed water so that people can shower without having to smear themselves down with hydrocortisone cream afterwards. And we need to extend the warning for the "safe" water from just pregnant women to pregnant women and children. There are pediatricians telling them to do that, and they are ignoring the pediatricians. Are any of these politicians capable of performing surgery on a 5 year old? I didn't think so. They need to listen to the experts in the field. I can't tell if the problem is nobody knows what to do so they are avoiding it more than I avoid housework, or if their pockets are too thick with Freedom Industries' assets that it's cutting off the blood circulation to their brain... Or maybe they've been drinking the water and its affected brain function. Either way, our state officials dealing with it appear very incompetent to the public. Your act needs to address that as well.
Thank you so much for reading all this. I wish you the best.
________________________________________________________

And what is the clean water act thing he's proposing? Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act

Another great article...

Behind West Virginia’s Massive Chemical Spill, A History Of Poverty And Pollution

"“Freedom Industries should be held accountable, but that won’t fix the problem,” Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition in Charleston, wrote in the Charleston Gazette. “That’s because the Elk River spill wasn’t an isolated accident. It was the inevitable consequence of weak regulatory enforcement over many years, made possible by our collective failure to uphold the values we profess.”


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