In Wake of Flint, Inside Appalachia Remembers W.Va. Water Woes

Jan 22, 2016

In light of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, this week on Inside Appalachia we remember the West Virginia water crisis from 2014. We’ll also hear from people in the coalfields who don’t have access to clean water, day in and day out. And we’ll honor the traditional “Appalachian” way of coming together to lean on each other.

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On this show you’ll hear:

  • Eric Waggoner, who shares his blog post from 2014. He first published the essay under the title "Elemental" on his blog, Cultural Slagheap, and it was subsequently featured on CNN and Huffington Post. Waggoner is a professor at West Virginia Wesleyan who says he's surprised his words have traveled so far and wide.
  • Responses from residents who remember what it was like to go without water during the West Virginia water crisis in 2014. Folks reacted in many different ways. Some were furious, others felt helpless, some were encouraged to send donations of water.
  • Residents from the coalfields who deal with boil-water advisories and outages as a way of life.
  • Folks in the coalfields working to overcome the challenges of bringing potable water to residents dealing with crumbling infrastructure.

Betty Younger talks about living in McDowell County without access to clean water.

  • Bill Withers talks about honoring the Appalachian spirit and tradition of coming together in times of need.

  • What’s in a Name?: This week, we’ll also travel to a town in southern West Virginia that’s nicknamed the “Dogwood City”, and is often called “Home of Champions” in basketball after claiming several state high school titles before consolidation in 1998. Listen to the show to find the answer.

Want to suggest a town name that we explore on Inside Appalachia? Send us a tweet @InAppalachia #WhatsinaName.

Two years since the chemical spill in West Virginia, there have been some updates:

  • A recent report says that privately owned West Virginia American Water in Charleston has not taken adequate measures to protect against potential disasters. The report says the company hasn’t invested enough into  existing infrastructure, among other complaints. The report comes from Boston Action  Research - a project of the Civil Society Institute.
  • Freedom industries, the company responsible for the leaked MCHM chemical that contaminated drinking water in the Elk River? Two former Freedom executives have agreed to a settlement in a class-action lawsuit
  • Under the proposed settlement, former Freedom President Gary Southern would pay $350,000 and former executive Dennis Farrell would pay $50,000 to residents and businesses affected by the spill.
  • Southern and Farrell are awaiting sentencing on federal pollution charges. They are among several defendants named in the lawsuit.
  • Freedom industries filed for bankruptcy following the spill. A federal bankruptcy judge recently approved a liquidation plan.

Special thanks to:  

Music in today’s show was provided by Glynis Board, Bill Withers, Ben Townsend, Jake Schepps,  Glennville State Bluegrass Band, Alan "Cathead" Johnston and Stacy Grubb, Tim O'Brien and Kathy Mattea with "Brush my Teeth". Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.

We’d love to hear from you.  You can e-mail us at feedback@wvpublic.org. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly. Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd.

Subscribe to our Inside Appalachia podcast here or on iTunes here, or on Stitcher here.