If you’ve been reading these messages the past few weeks, you’ve seen me write about getting out of our silos and getting involved in all of the anti-water legislation that is moving through the WV Legislature this year. Over the next several days, we are in what I can only describe as “crunch time” and we need YOU.
This is personal to me. Some, perhaps most, of you don’t know that I grew up in rural southern WV, in a little town called Dorothy. In many ways, Dorothy was a wonderful place to live. I could go out my back door and within minutes I’d be walking in the mountains. The high school was small (12 students in my graduating class) which meant that we got individual attention with most teachers willing to guide us to books and materials outside of the official curriculum so we could get a broad based education. All in all, the connections of living in a rural, fairly isolated place created more advantages than disadvantages.
But what was always present in our thoughts was water. My family and our neighbors were on private wells. The closest public water supply was 12 miles away, a small system that served (one can argue not very well) the town of Whitesville. I still remember using a weighted wooden stick that we would lower into the well by wire in order to measure the depth of water in the well. I remember worrying that we would lose that important resource. I remember times when the amount of water dropped so low that showers became short and rain water was used to flush. Water was key to being able to live where we wanted to live. I still have that stick as a reminder of the preciousness of water.
I also remember when we decided it wasn’t just the quantity of water that should concern us, but also the quality. So we had our water tested. What we found concerned us enough to put on a filtration system that cost $4,000. We were lucky enough to be able to afford it, but many of our neighbors were not. What I remember most about the filtration system is thinking that it was just wrong that people in our community needed one in order to protect our water. Why did we have to take measures to make sure that what we were drinking would not kill us, especially since well water should theoretically be safe and clean? And yet, the economic costs to us were not being calculated.
When I moved to Charleston, I gave little thought to the quantity or quality of water coming from my tap. But I never forgot how it felt to be left out…..disenfranchised you might say…from having a basic essential. The chemical spill last year, in many ways, changed a lot of people. For me, it felt like an opportunity to come together as one people…urban or rural, public water or private…it felt like the barriers would come down. And to a degree, I think that’s happened.
But we are all being attacked by many in our Legislature. Particularly vulnerable are those people living in coal and fracking areas. So it’s crunch time. We need to come together, not only to protect some water, not only to protect our rivers, not only to protect municipal water, but to protect ALL water. For me, the next several days will tell a lot about the kind of people we are. Are we going to only be interested in ourselves and our individual interests? Or are we going to stand together, united by water and state clearly that clean, safe water is a human right for ALL? The lobbyists from WV Rivers Coalition, WV Citizens Action Group, WV Environmental Council as well as other organizations are doing good work. But we need YOU!
Two important events are happening this week. On Monday, February 16th at 8:30 AM there is a public hearing on the Category A bill. They have only slotted half an hour (insulting) but we need YOU to show up. And we need YOU to call OTHERS to show up. On Wednesday the WV Environmental Council is hosting E-Day at the Capital. PLEASE COME. Speak to your legislator…speak to legislative leadership….speak to anyone within shouting distance…we ALL deserve clean, safe water. At noon, there will be a rally/press conference. Part of that will be an open mic so you can tell your story and make some noise. Let everyone know you care.
Like I said, it’s crunch time.