News / USA

Coal Industry Blamed for West Virginia Chemical Spill

Environmentalists Blame Coal Industry for West Virginia Chemical Spilli
X
January 17, 2014 11:56 AM
There are new calls for increased oversight of the powerful chemical and coal industries in West Virginia following a major chemical spill that cut off water to more than 300,000 people. The state's governor has promised to investigate this accident, but environmentalists say the state has been reluctant to regulate and enforce pollution controls on these industries, which are so crucial to the region's economy. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Brian Padden
There are new calls for increased oversight of the powerful chemical and coal industries in West Virginia following a major chemical spill that cut off water to more than 300,000 people.  The state's governor has promised to investigate the accident, but environmentalists say the state has been reluctant to regulate and enforce pollution controls on these industries, which are so crucial to the region's economy. 

As residents line up for bottled water, many like Chase Tavaraz want to know why there was no state oversight of the chemical company that contaminated the local drinking water.

“As far as what I understand, if it would have been inspected - I guess 23, 26 years it hasn’t been inspected.  So if it had been certified every year like they are supposed to do, they would have avoided this whole situation,” he said.

Nearly a week after a storage tank at a Freedom Industries site leaked chemicals into the Elk river, clean tap water is slowly being restored to affected areas.

The chemical, which is used to process coal, leaked near the biggest water treatment plant in the state.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has promised a full investigation into the accident.

Environmentalists have been critical of the state’s handling of smaller scale incidents in the past, including a 2008 explosion at a chemical plant that killed two workers. 

“There was a report by the chemical safety board [on] recommendations that the state government should take in order to protect the citizens from this type of accident again, and none of those recommendations have been passed,” said Bill Price, an activist with the Sierra Club.

This region has a large concentration of chemical companies.  Many are connected to the coal industry, which dominates West Virginia's economy. 

Governor Tomblin said the recent chemical spill is not the fault of the coal industry.

“This was not a coal company.  This was a chemical supplier where the leak occurred.  As far as I know, there are no coal mines within miles of this particular incident,” the governor said during a news conference.

But Price and other environmentalists say pollution from coal mining has contaminated many local water sources, forcing rural communities to rely on water piped in from Charleston, the state capital.

“When the governor, for instance, says that this is not a coal issue, that’s not true," he said.  "This is very much related to the ongoing pollution of the coal industry in southern West Virginia counties that has created the condition that has allowed this spill to affect so many people.”

Neither the company involved in the chemical spill nor the West Virginia Coal Association have made any public comments about the  accident.  But Price said the lack of regulation and enforcement in the state is very much connected to the political power of coal in West Virginia.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs