More than 300,000 West Virginia residents are facing their fifth day of coping with a massive chemical spill, and FEMA is helping state and local agencies ensure that residents have access to safe drinking water. That means tax payers are already covering the cost of the spill, and they could be on the hook for clean up expenses as well. To make matters worse, state environmental officials are now saying that the chemical leak could be substantially worse than first believed. Earlier reports estimated between two and five thousand gallons of a dangerous coal-processing chemical leaked into the Elk River, but now residents are learning that as many as 7,500 gallons might have contaminated their drinking water.
The West Virginian American Water Company says it may be “several days” before residents can use their tap water for anything other than flushing toilets. Many schools and businesses remain closed because of the dangerous spill, and stores can't keep up with the demand for bottled water. The West Virginia chemical spill is a perfect example of why corporations aren't more responsible when dealing with dangerous substances – they keep all the profits, and the public is forced to cover the cost of their screw ups.
Just like those responsible for oil spills, these companies are never forced to pay the true cost of their reckless behavior. Patricia Mason, a 54-year old retired West Virginia resident, said, “It seems like no one watches these companies. They get away with this all the time, and we're the ones who pay for it. We're the ones who are suffering. It's just wrong.” Our nation must enact stricter regulations to govern these toxic chemicals, and we need to enforce the laws we have by holding corporations responsible for the real cost of the damage they do to our environment and our lives.