Recently I took a sunday afternoon drive to Clendenin, West Virginia. Clendenin is a town in Kanawha County that was one of many areas that were affected by the flooding that occurred last summer when around 10 inches of rain fell in a 12 hour period. When it was all said and done 23 people lost their lives, 6 of those being in Kanawha County. It was one of the worst floods in West Virginia history and the deadliest flash flood in the US since the 2010 flooding in Tennessee. The destruction was so severe and widespread that the governor declared a state of emergency for 44 of the 55 counties in West Virginia.
Flooding in Appalachia is a subject that hits deep with me. The summer before my senior year of high school a flash flood hit southern West Virginia where I lived in Wyoming County. I wasn’t home at the time but the way my mother tells it the flooding only lasted about 20 minutes. That’s all it took. 20 Minutes for 4 feet of muddy water from the overflowing Guyandotte River to rush through our house and destroy everything we had. The river was at the end of our dead end street and normally didn’t have a depth of more than a few feet, but that day it had crested at 18-20 feet in places. During the actual flooding I was a few miles outside of town riding an atv through the mountains with a friend. Up until that point in my 17 years on this planet I had never been on an atv and I was having the time of my life speeding through the southern West Virginia landscape. To this day the irony kills me that while I was off enjoying myself, everything I had acquired in life was being destroyed.
When I arrived in Clendenin I was shocked to see it still in the shape that it was in. The flood happened in June of 2016, here it was January 2017 and it appeared as if the river had just ran through a couple of weeks ago. Piles of people’s belongings stacked in front of ruined homes, trash carried by the river hanging from tree limbs, rows of closed businesses, and that stench of dampness and mold. All the terrible memories I had from the flood of 2001 came crashing back. It really makes me sick to think of all the money that is spent on something like a presidential campaign, where one person is basically just saying “look how much of an asshole my opponent is”, when that same amount of money could easily be put to an area such as this and help people rebuild their lives.
Charleston Fire Department divers wait to retrieve a GMC pickup truck that went in the Kanawha River early Friday morning. An 18-year old from Princeton, W.Va. crashed the truck over a barrier near McFarland Street,
down the riverbank and into the drink. He escaped with minor injuries and was charged with DUI.
I would just like to say that this is not the first time that the chemical plants in Kanawha County have caused problems. Remember five years ago when a plant blew and a shelter-in-place was ordered because it released a cloud of pesticides into the air so thick that you couldn’t see three feet in front of your face??
Today in labor history, February 13, 1913: After West Virginia Governor William E. Glasscock declares martial law to put down the coal miners’ strike in in Kanawha county, 83-year old activist and organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones is arrested. She was tried and convicted by a military court and sentenced to twenty years in prison. “Whatever I have done in West Virginia,” she said, “I have done it all over the United States. And when I get out, I will do it again.” She was released and pardoned after serving 85 days.
Checked in on my sister last night. She drove to my parents house to fill up containers (my parents live in one of two cities in Kanawha County with water not supplied by WV American Water and can therefore use theirs). She said water testing had shown that the chemical readings had gone from 2 PPM to 1.7 PPM Friday night but a local news channel was reporting yesterday that the retaining wall was still leaking and the spill was up to at least 7,500 gallons and the readings were back up to 3 last night. (Readings have to be less than 1 PPM consistently before they can even start flushing water systems. They’re back down to 1 PPM today but not consistently.)
She also told me that the owner of Freedom Industries recently acquired the company and knew that the retaining wall needed at least $1 million in repairs. And former contractors are speaking out about Freedom Industries now. So everyone involved, former owners and current, knew this thing was a fucking time bomb and they did nothing.
This is a BIG DEAL. Over 300,000 people cannot use their water right now. They can’t drink it or bathe in it. They can’t wash their hands or do their laundry. Their water has been poisoned by a greedy corporation. This should be all over the national news. I should be seeing this shared by people from all over on my FB feed. But I’m not. The only people talking about it are WV residents and ex-pats. If we’re ever going to get anywhere in our fight against Big Coal, we need outside help. They’ve been destroying our land for decades. This needs to end.