Citizen Groups to Unite for Water Justice in West Virginia and Beyond

News conference at state capitol scheduled to demand clean and safe water, express solidarity with residents of Flint, Michigan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A coalition of approxmiately 40 groups and individuals have scheduled a news conference on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the state capitol here to focus attention on the importance of clean and safe water.

According to a news release from Angie Rosser of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Gary Zuckett of the West Virginia Citizens Action Group, and Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the purpose of the news conference is, “To call on our elected officials and regulators to live up to their responsibility to protect our basic right of access to safe water – government failings that led to the 2014 West Virginia Water Crisis, and following crises in Toledo, Ohio; Sebring Ohio; and, Flint, Mich.” The groups pointed in particular to the public health crises and millions of dollars in costs borne by taxpayers caused by the various disasters.

The news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the lower rotunda of the state capitol.

The release noted, “The West Virginia Legislature continues to roll back protections for our water supplies. The Public Service Commission may abandon its duty to investigate what went wrong, and what needs fixed. Our congressional members seek to block proposed federal water protections at every turn.”

It added, “With our letter of solidarity to the residents of Flint, Michigan from 38 West Virginia groups, we come together in solidarity with communities across this state and nation to remind decision makers that water is everyone’s priority. We need commitments to protect water supplies and upgrade water infrastructure, everywhere, and especially in communities home to low-income families or people of color.”

The news conference comes less than a month after an independent report blasted West Virginia American Water Company for not being prepared for a chemical spill that polluted water of 300,000 people living in the Kanawha Valley in January 2014. Among other recommendations, the report urges municipal takeover of the Charleston water system and other systems in the state owned by West Virginia American Water Company (WVAW).

The West Fork River in North Central West Virginia is sediment laden from runoff due to poor sediment control by gas pipeline contractors in the summer of 2015. Photo – MB

Boston Action Research (BAR), a project of the Civil Society Institute (CSI) argued that privately owned WVAW has still not taken the necessary steps to prepare for a future crisis, hold down rates, avoid major service disruptions, and invest in aging infrastructure.

The root cause of these problems, according to the BAR report, is that WVAW is guided by a profit motive. According to the report, “WVAW pays a higher percentage of its profits in dividend payments to its parent corporation, American Water Company, than its subsidiaries in other states on average, which sends precious financial resources out of West Virginia that could otherwise be invested in the water system.” It concludes, “Given the ongoing shortcomings of WVAW … [t]he best course of action for West Virginians is to assume public ownership and operation (municipalization) of the Charleston regional water system.”


The Elk River Spill and other water-related issues will be addressed by the various speakers scheduled for the Feb. 9 news conference. Scheduled speakers and topics include:

  • Natalie Thompson, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition: Welcome and introduction of speakers.
  • Crystal Good, Affected citizen:  Reading of the solidarity letter from West Virginians to the citizens of Flint, Michigan.
  • Obi Henderson, Charleston resident: The call for water justice.
  • Karan Ireland, Advocates for a Safe Water System: The need for full investigation of lessons learned from water crisis.
  • Junior Walk, Coal River Mountain Watch: Growing up in West Virginia with poisoned water.
  • Angie Rosser, West Virginia Rivers Coalition:  Current legislation rolling back water protections.
  • Gary Zuckett, West Virginia Citizen Action Group: Closing and Q&A.

 Legislative meeting

The group is also are alerting citizens to a scheduled meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources on at 4:30 p.m. in the House Chamber to review the recommendations of the Public Water System Supply Study Commission.

Involved Groups and Individuals

Advocates for a Safe Water System / American Friends Service Committee / Appalachian Catholic Worker / Catholic Committee of Appalachia (WV Chapter) / Charleston WV Branch NAACP / Christians For The Mountains / Coal River Mountain Watch / Concerned Citizens of Roane County / Covenant House of West Virginia / Doddridge County Watershed Association / Friends of Water / Greenbrier River Watershed Association / Huntington-Cabell Branch of the NAACP / Kanawha Forest Coalition / Keeper of the Mountains / MelRose Ministries for Positive Transformative Change / Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance / Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition / People Concerned About Chemical Safety /Plateau Action Network / POWHR (Preserve Our Water, Heritage, Rights) / Preserve Greenbrier / Preserve Monroe / RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s Survival) / Stories From South Central, WV /  Southern Appalachian Labor School / South Central Educational Development, Inc. / West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy / West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club / West Virginia Citizen Action Group / West Virginia Clean Water Hub / West Virginia Direct Action Welfare Group / West Virginia Environmental Council / West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition / West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light / WV FREE (West Virginia Focus: Reproductive Education and Equality) / West Virginia Chapter, NAACP / West Virginia Rivers Coalition  and these individuals: Crystal Good @cgoodwoman / Ellen Allen and Sue Julian / Helen Gibbins / Karan Ireland / Maya Nye / Paula Swearengin / Shirley Rosenbaum.

© Appalachian Chronicle, 2016

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Related Links

West Virginia Rivers Coalition

West Virginia Citizens Action Group

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition


  1. Here’s why any U.S. citizen residing in or near a Neo-Liberal Sacrifice Zone should care.
    That term refers to Neo-Liberal E-CONomic policies that sacrifice the health of residents and the environment for quantifiable maximization of private profits or public shareholder profits.

    Examples of recent Neo-Liberal Sacrifice Zones that have percolated to national broadcast news media coverage after long periods of local and independent coverage that was not picked up by corporate-captured broadcast or national print news media include: The Flint River Watershed in Flint, Michigan, Northridge-Porter Ranch SoCal Gas LLC, LA County, California, Cancer Clusters and subsidized relocation of Hinkley (see under ERIN BROCKOVICH) and San Bernardino CA or the 300,000 humans who lost their potable water to chemical contamination by FREEDOM INDUSTRIES (now bankrupt, so not quite LLC) of the Elk River Watershed in West Virginia.

    Also, see the non-profit Consortium Investigative Journalists or ICIJ investigation into the Cancer Clusters around the DOW CHEMICAL refinery and PVC plant in Texas City, Texas that has been suppressed similarly from NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH STATE OF EMERGENCY 24/7 mass media coverage or any response from the EPA or CDC.

    Compare the news coverage and public political response to the random shootings by an ISLAMIST COUPLE in San Bernardino. NATIONAL SECURITY RISK via association with TERROR MOTIVES is nationally newsworthy. PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCIES associated with E-CON policies, specifically what Wikipedia explains Neo-Liberal E-CON to be are locally newsworthy if at all. In the case of the FREEDOM INDUSTRIES contamination of the 300,000 human and non-quantifiable wildlife watershed of the Elk River in West Virginia, even with a February 2016 rare if symbolic criminal prosecution of the bankrupt FREEDOM INDUSTRIES trans national chemical LLC’s CEO Gary Southern the coverage and mass media fall-out was contained to WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING (with no national NPR or PBS sustained investigation or review except for Bill Moyers single program that is no longer syndicated in major media markets) and an amazingly curious and competent local investigative reporter for the CHARLESTON,

    WEST VIRGINIA MAIL GAZETTE named Ken Ward, Jr whose years of digging into the cause of the ELK RIVER BASIN’s chemical contamination despite all sorts of pressure for him to cease and desist is worth a PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF HONOR if brave journalists working for the PUBLIC INTEREST rather than the corporate interest were ever so honored…

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