Feb 12, 2016

West Virginia Citizen Groups to Flint Residents: 'We Are With You'

Joint letter notes similarities in infrastructure

flint, west virginia, citizens groups, contamination

Citizen groups representing the 300,000 West Virginia residents who were without safe water for more than a week in some cases after a January 2014 chemical leak have a message for the residents of Flint, Mich.: "We are with you." Emphasizing the need for stepped-up state oversight and federal investment in water infrastructure, a joint letter from 36 West Virginia groups to the residents of the Michigan city is available online.

At a news conference, the groups warned that state lawmakers scaled back the scope of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act (ASTA) and the number of tanks falling under state scrutiny. They are urging the legislators to restore provisions stripped from the ASTA regulations and adopt recommendations of the Public Water System Supply Study Commission.

According to the groups, further erosion of aboveground storage tank rules would make West Virginia vulnerable to a reoccurrence of the 2014 chemical contamination of the state's drinking water. Safe drinking water is not just an urban problem in West Virginia - both in the coalfields of the south and the northern fracking fields, access to clean, potable water is a critical issue.

Commenting on the parallels to the situation now unfolding in Flint and the need for more vigilance on the part of state and federal lawmakers, Charleston area resident Crystal Good said, "While the precise details are different, the overall stories of poisoned water here in West Virginia and in Flint are essentially similar. Although one is private water management and the other public, in both cases the government has failed to safeguard clean drinking water, especially in communities that are home predominantly to black or low-income families."