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Letters by Sarah Vekasi
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Dearest friends,

            One week later I am writing again to say that the Water Crisis in West Virginia is still far from over. There is a scary lack of national press for this severe crisis, so please help spread the word, and help out however you can.

Organizers in West Virginia are asking for a continuation of immediate donations for water, and money to help people who have not been able to work for a week. Links for ways to continue to donate are below. All of the donations I have raised thus far have already been turned into water donations– thank you!

            West Virginia organizers are also asking us to hold a vigil near our own water ways this coming Tuesday, January 21st at 6:00pm. The idea is to fast for the day on Tuesday, and then go to a beloved waterway or municipal water site and hold a candlelight vigil – either individually or as a large group, to honor the very essence we need to survive – our water. More details about this below as well.

            Here is the scoop: last week a chemical leak was discovered by state officials acting on complaints of a strong chemical odor which was discovered to be Crude MCHM leaking from a chemical container owned by Freedom Industries, just upstream from the American West Virginia Water municipal water supply intake on the Elk River outside of Charleston, WV. Turns out that even though West Virginia is a state rich in waterways, this intake services nine counties. NINE COUNTIES have been without drinkable water since last Thursday! A few days ago the water company began issuing “flush” orders for people to flush out their tanks and begin drinking the water, and since then the emergency rooms have seen a huge influx of patients with rashes, vomiting, severe headaches, etc. and my friends from throughout the impacted areas all report that even the ‘flushed’ water smells strongly of chemical still. Pregnant women have been advised to not drink the water, and the general consensus in the state is that the water is still polluted and unsafe. The chemical company already declared bankruptcy, and the need for accountability has never been greater.

            Our activist networks have been working heroically distributing clean water gathered from outside the polluted zones to people in need. All of the pro-Appalachia / anti-mountaintop removal groups I have written about are mobilized throughout the state and region. Over 300,000 people are still without reliable water! This is a really big deal with national implications. The bulk of the chemical flume has already left West Virginia by way of the Elk River to the Ohio River, and is now on its way to the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico. The dangers to our health are not very well understood, and the potential impact very frightening.

            Meanwhile, there is another heart-breaking aspect to this leak. Besides directly contaminating the municipal water in these nine counties, we now know that this chemical – Crude MCHM is used as a foaming agent to wash coal after it has been mined. The implication here is that this chemical is one of the many chemicals used in the coal-cleaning process which is then dumped into the slurry impoundments in the valley fills throughout central Appalachia, and used to be directly injected into abandoned mines. Not only is this chemical in the water in these nine counties, but this one and more are leaching into the ground water throughout the whole coal-mining region, along with more toxic sludge. We have been talking about the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining to anyone who would listen, and now suddenly 300,000 people are facing some of them as well from this leak. Terrifying.

            Ways to help include:

1. Donate directly to relief efforts in WV. You can continue to donate to the Eco-Chaplaincy Initiative with “WV Water Crisis” in the byline at http://www.ecochaplaincy.net/donate.html, or directly to any of the following:

Aurora Lights: http://auroralights.org/news/2014/01/11/donate-send-relief-supplies-families-affected-chemical-spill

OVEC: https://donation.towercare.com/ovec-donation

Keepers of the Mountains: http://www.mountainkeeper.org/donate/

And if you want/can deliver water, please go online to the public facebook page WV Clean Water Hub at https://www.facebook.com/WVCleanWaterHub.


2. Spread the word! The national media doesn’t seem to care that 300,000 West Virginian’s have not had access to safe water for over a week, and that is both appalling and a disgrace. This is a national crisis – imagine if there was a terrorist attack that poisoned this much water? Remember how much the media cared when a single cruise ship was without water? This is a big deal and we need people to know and to hold the chemical and coal companies, and the systems of power that support this whole industry accountable.


3. Honor your water and act in solidarity with West Virginia by holding a Water-Honoring Vigil this coming Tuesday, January 21st. The idea is to get in touch with our source of water, to honor and thank it, and share in our awareness of how we need water to live. Organizers ask that if you are able to fast for the day, please do. In Charleston, people will gather near the capitol on the Kanawha River and honor the water with prayers and candles and presence. My friends have asked all that are nearby to attend, and for all of the rest of us, to hold a Water Vigil in our own hometown. We can fast and pray for the day, if possible, and gather with candles around 6:00. I know that it will mean so much to know people are standing in solidarity through presence and prayer throughout the country and world, so if this is something you can do, please also send word with a photo or message to me, and also directly on the facebook invite page for the “Honoring the Waters -Candle Light Vigilat: https://www.facebook.com/events/1441712489379104/


I will send more updates as we know them. To my friends reading this in West Virginia – know that we are with you, and that my home is open if you need a respite.


Much love to all of you dear friends,