Sunday, January 12, 2014

Freedom Enterprises in West Virginia

(PHOTO: Associated Press)
I don’t want to be ironic so early in the new year but it’s awful that hundreds of thousands have been put at risk in West Virginia by the spill of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River by a company called Freedom Enterprises.

People in nine counties drawing drinking water from the Elk River can’t drink or bathe in the water and Freedom Enterprises has been ordered to stop all business and remove chemicals from all its above-ground storage tanks near the Elk River.

Hundreds have reported feeling ill as a result of drinking tap water.

Business has come to a halt in the capital city of Charleston near where the plant was operating because if you don’t have clean drinking water you can’t serve food... Or wash dishes. Or shower. Emergency supplies of bottled water don’t count.

This comes in the heart of Tea Party country where the government is seen as the enemy of the people.

Maybe government is the enemy if it allows a company like Freedom Enterprise to do business in a way that puts public health at risk. What’s appalling after an spill like this is the lack of any contingency plan to handle such an emergency—people drink out of the river for God's sake-- and the lack of knowledge about what the toxicity effects are of drinking water contaminated in varying concentrations with 4-methylcyclohexane methanol.

“We don’t know the water is not safe, but I can’t say that it is safe,” the president of the West Virginia American Water Company said.

Will Tea Party zealots get in line to get Federal disaster relief and FEMA-transported water? Sure, because this is first of all a public health problem that needs to be immediately addressed by government, quickly. But this isn’t a Katrina or Sandy disaster--- this is a Freedom Enterprise-made disaster and the West Virginia Tea Party, if they have any real backbone, should be holding Freedom Enterprises by their corporate privates accountable for the mess they’ve bestowed on the people of West Virginia.

We’ll see.

--Mike Sato

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