It took a few days after a state of emergency was declared across nine West Virginia counties and one-sixth of the state’s population was told not to drink or bathe using their tap water for the national news media to discover there is a story of national importance occurring in the political backwaters of Appalachia.
But most haven’t yet picked up on what may be the most interesting and important part of the story: why so many people in this water-rich state depend on a single, privately owned treatment system and distribution network that sprawls across nine counties for their drinking water.
In many communities, the story of coal industry activities polluting people’s drinking water supply is anything but new. Places like Prenter in Boone County have seen a lot worse.
The story of waste from coal preparation plants polluting well water in Prenter was the centerpiece of a blockbuster story published by the New York Times in 2009 that described the systemic failures of states like West Virginia to enforce the federal Clean Water Act. Here’s the lead from that story:
Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her ... Read more