It started with a Boone
County man not being allowed to take West Virginia American Water Co.
tap water into the state Capitol Jan. 30 because security didn't know
for sure what the orange liquid was.
It ended with petitions being given to a representative of Gov. Earl
Ray Tomblin and Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, promising
that never again would a tank spill contaminate the water of so many
In between, about 60 people protested what they see as inadequate legislation and enforcement of laws to protect drinking water.
Protestors aimed their anger at the chemical industry in light of the
Jan. 9 spill in Charleston, at the coal industry over mountaintop
removal mining, at the gas drilling industry over hydraulic fracturing
and at state officials who they say do not do enough to protect the
health of West Virginians.
Dustin White said his father lives in southern Boone County, and his
tap water recently turned orange and smells of chemicals. When he tried
to enter the Capitol with a gallon jug and a 16-ounce bottle filled with
orange liquid, security officers escorted him out the door and told him
he would be arrested if he tried to bring the water into the Capitol
After conferring with security, Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, went outside and accepted the gallon jug from White.
Manypenny promised to take the water to his office and send it to the Board of Public Health for analysis
"This is outrageous," he told White.
The early part of the protest at the Capitol was for people holding
signs to stand in the hallway outside the House of Delegates chamber.
One of those people was the Rev. Melvin Hoover of the Unitarian
Universalist Congregation of Charleston.
"I think we're killing our state," Hoover said. "Who wants to move to
a poisoned state? What families want to live here? We love West
Virginia, and we want to take the state back for its people."
Hoover said his water at home smelled of crude MCHM — the chemical
that got into the Charleston water supply — the morning of the protest.
He fears now that the worst part of the water emergency is over, state
officials and others will forget about it and move on to other things.
After the protest outside the House of Delegates chamber, people
moved to the area outside the governor's office. Johanna de Graffenreid,
campaign coordinator for WV CARE (Citizen Action for Real Enforcement),
said she was pleased with the turnout.
"We know that there are thousands of West Virginians who were not
able to make it today who are represented by the people who are here in
the Capitol," she said.
She said she had petitions signed by 2,000 state residents urging
Tomblin to intervene in the Department of Environmental Protection's
regulatory activities and require it to enforce laws.
Jim Kotcon, conservation chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club, told
his fellow protestors, "Tell your legislators we want a stronger bill.
No more loopholes."
Although Tomblin did not meet with the protestors, Kessler walked to the middle of the circle and addressed them.
"I'm here to pledge to you today something like this will never happen again," he said.
Facilities such as the Freedom Industries tank farm will be
identified, will be inventoried and will be required to provide
appropriate notification, Kessler said.
He also said there needs to be a thorough investigation of what happened Jan. 9.
Eventually, protestors were allowed into Tomblin's outer office,
where they handed Becky Neal, executive aide to the governor, their