“Don’t drink the water; don’t use the water,” said Del. Michael Pushkin (D) Kanawha.
Delegate Mike Pushkin, like many West Virginians, was remembering the warnings on the third anniversary of the Kanawha Valley Water Crisis Monday. Freedom Industries spilling chemicals into the Elk River contaminating the drinking water for over 300 thousand people. That prompted dozens of clean water advocates to gather at the Capitol today, promising preventive measures so a similar disaster never happens again.
“It was a wake up call at the time. I think it taught us not to take clean water for granted. And so remembering kind of reminds us also that we need to keep working,” said Karan Ireland, of Advocates for Safe Water Systems.
In the aftermath the Legislature passed new environmental laws, aimed at protecting people from future spills. But since a lot of measures are being slowly phased in, it’s too early for a complete report card.
“Some of these source water protection plans will need to be implemented. So we have plans in place, but of course the important question is what’s next? Will those plans be carried out? And will they be effective? So that’s something that we will be watching,” said Angie Rosser, of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
Some Freedom industries executives served time in prison for the spill. And 151 million dollars was awarded in a class action lawsuit, though that money is still being divided up among the victims.
“As many speakers pointed out, clean water is not just as environmental issues, its is an economic issue as well,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.