Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
What you may already know: Freedom Industries, a coal-industry surrogate in West Virginia, dumped poison into the water supply known as the Elk River, waited 24 hours to tell anyone about it, waited even longer to mention that they had also dumped a second poison into the water supply, and then declared bankruptcy so as to make themselves judgment-proof in civil court against the hundreds of thousands of people who couldn’t eat or work or bathe or cook for weeks…and this was all before the stuff they dumped into the river evaporated into formaldehyde, which it does, so everyone who couldn’t eat or bathe or cook for weeks was suddenly eating and cooking and bathing in a whole different poison, this one being a known carcinogen…but they’re bankrupt now, so screw you and your tumors.
What you may not yet know, but need to: Gary Southern, President of Freedom Industries, gave a press conference the day after the spill was announced, and did yeoman’s work to ensure himself a first-ballot nomination into the Bastard’s Hall Of Fame. Described afterward in various publications as “rude,” “arrogant” and “dismissive,” Southern tried several times to call the whole thing off – at one point complaining that he’d “had a long day” – before capping off his performance by taking a deep swig of bottled water right on camera, the very thing residents of the community were desperate for at that moment. Call it the 21st century version of “Let them eat cake.”
That was the last we saw of Mr. Southern and his refreshingly unpolluted beverage. When members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee traveled to West Virginia on Monday to try and ascertain just what the hell is going on down there, Gary Southern and Freedom Industries blew them off completely. Representatives from the US Chemical Safety Board went to the meeting, as did members of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Even people from West Virginia American Water, the organization highly criticized for its handling of the situation, showed up.
The actual people who actually put poison into the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people?
A month after the spill, tests revealed the chemical was still showing up in 40% of homes in the affected region.
Last week, Duke Energy in North Carolina dumped tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River, turning it slate grey. According to Truthout’s Mike Ludwig, “Coal ash can contain mercury, selenium, arsenic, chromium and other toxic and heavy metals, and at least 207 spills and contamination events have occurred in 37 states, according to data compiled by environmental groups.”
On Tuesday, Patriot Coal dumped 100,000 gallons of coal slurry into yet another West Virginia waterway. The water turned black. According to Think Progress, “Coal slurry contains a range of toxic substances, including chemicals used to wash the coal and heavy metals, like iron, manganese, aluminum and selenium.”
Also on Tuesday, some 2,000 gallons of oil-suffused bilge water was dumped into Puget Sound in Washington State at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base. It spread all the way to Hood Canal ten miles to the north. The Department of Health issued an advisory against eating shellfish from the affected area.
Patriot Coal…Freedom Industries…I am sensing a pattern here.
A generation of industry deregulation, of government-is-the-problem, and of industries that quite simply and completely don’t give a damn, have delivered us here. Of late, reports of poisons massively entering our water supply have been occurring with the same dreary regularity as reports of shootings at schools. It was happening before, but now it is happening all the time. It is entirely unsustainable, and must be stopped.
Ours are not the only communities being poisoned by runaway industry unfettered by even the most meager regulations. The village of Baha, in the Yunnan province of southwest China, was choking on factory smokestack filth and drinking factory polluted water for fourteen years, until they finally had enough. They called a meeting with the factory boss, but the boss blew them off. The residents of Baha responded by destroying the factory’s offices, cars and dormitories, and wrecked the factory’s equipment.
A meeting was called, the poisoners did not deign to show up, and all hell broke loose. Sounds a lot like Freedom Industries’ absence on Monday, except, of course, for the hell breaking loose.
“We have been living with the factory for 14 years,” said resident Huang Liangzheng in a UK Guardian report on the incident, “and we live in dust almost every day and can’t sell our rice and other farm products. We need to live.”
We need to live.
Think about that, you captains of industry.
Kick a dog enough times, and he will turn on you, tear out the seat of your pants, and come growling for more. “Enlightened self-interest” are your watchwords for this brave new century.
Quickly, now. Before it’s too late.