West Virginia has a water problem. A coal-cleaning chemical spill has fouled the Elk River and compromised safe water usage for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians.
I live a couple hours south of Charleston, the heart of the crisis, and am not affected. My most recent water problem was fixed in less than a day. Although I still hold my breath when I turn on a faucet.
Those who live in the nine affected counties served by WV American Water have not been using their water for nine days now.
To be fair, some zones have been given the all-clear. But customers are still noticing an odd odor. In some homes the water coming from the tap is green. Some are complaining about hyperchlorination. Pregnant women, children and the elderly are advised to continue drinking bottled water, begging the question: If it's not okay for them, how is it okay for everyone else?
Lawsuits have been filed, of course, and the company that was supposed to contain the chemical filed for bankruptcy yesterday, in an attempt to wriggle out of responsibility for paying for damages.
The Washington Post has been covering the story in depth all week. (Link goes to today's account of the bankruptcy filing and includes lots of background information.)
I'm astonished. Gobsmacked. Baffled. Sad. Sorry. Angry.
And pretty much helpless.
I saw Senator Manchin (D-WV) interviewed on television last night stating the issue "is not a coal problem, it is a chemical problem."
Democratic politicians in West Virginia are so protective of their Friends of Coal [Owners, not Miners] money that they're willing to sell the rest of the state down the polluted Elk River.
As a devoted Democrat, I don't know what to do. Really. I don't. I don't want West Virginia's legislature to be taken over by Republicans. After the last election we swore in the highest number of GOP Delegates in decades. West Virginia in 2014 could be the new North Carolina, which flipped from blue to red in dramatic fashion in 2012.
I don't want Jay Rockefeller's Senate seat (he's retiring) to be filled by the Republican daughter of a former WV governor with a dubious past. I don't want my Congressman (Nick Rahall, WV-3) beaten by a Republican-who-used-to-be-a-Democrat-who-used-to-be-a-Republican.
My philosophy – and it's been a hard lesson to learn, believe me – is that it's better to have a DINO in office than a red-blooded Republican, who won't even listen to Democrats' concerns. At least with a Democrat – even In Name Only – I can get my foot in the door. My Congressman knows me by name. That can happen when you're kinda loud and you live in a small state.
Unfortunately, listening to my concerns and voting in a manner which represents me – a small donor compared to Big Coal – are two very different things.
2014 is going to be a long, hard political year.