We are seeing today how dependent we are on clean rivers for our health and security. The immediate priority is for public health officials to determine the extent of the problem and to ensure the safety of public water supplies. Then, we must take a critical look at how to better protect our vital drinking water sources.
The chemical industry is a part of our current economy in West Virginia, and with that, we live with the potential for human error, equipment failure or malfunction, and resulting leaks that can have devastating consequences. We think it is an unnecessary risk to allow hazardous chemicals to be produced or stored immediately upstream of the water supply for some 300,000 West Virginians. It also seems apparent that the involved chemical company placed the public at risk by not immediately reporting the spill to proper agencies and authorities.
Clean water is essential for life. We cannot cut corners in ensuring that our drinking water supply is protected. There is too much at stake – our health, our economic stability, our confidence in water security. We hope that once the immediate crisis phase is over, serious thought will go into meaningful reforms and investment in protecting our rivers and streams that are our lifeline.