A bit of good news: There was some water to drink in the region of West Virginia where a chemical leak from a company in the coal industry polluted the water supply. The water was bottled, and brought to you by advocates for the coal industry.
ThinkProgress reporter Emily Atkin is in West Virginia, where she's reporting on the leak from a tank at Freedom Industries that released 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the Elk River, polluting the water supply for some 300,000 people. (On Tuesday, Atkin and her colleague Katie Valentine reported that local residents had issues with their water even before the leak became public.) But when she got to her hotel, she was pleased to find that there, at least, she had water to drink. Sponsored by "Friends of Coal."
Friends of Coal is an advocacy organization that "is dedicated to inform and educate West Virginia citizens about the coal industry and its vital role in the state's future." It's a volunteer organization, its "about" page says, "that consists of both West Virginians and residents from beyond our borders."
It seems clear that the bottled water Atkin tweeted about (and which we saw via Aaron Bady) isn't specific to the Elk River incident, but is meant for miners staying in that hotel. Most visitors, after all, don't need to worry about "unsupported roof" in a coal mine the bottle warns about (that's a section of a mine that has been dug out but not yet reinforced, offering a risk of cave-in). Everyone, though, can embrace the idea that "Drugs and Mining Don't Mix!"
Unsurprisingly, the coal industry has been adamant about separating itself from Freedom Industries. While 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol is used to clean coal and the company provides chemicals to coal mining firms, a representative from the American Coal Council insisted to The Hill that "[t]here’s going to be some groups trying to connect the two and say it’s another black mark on the coal industry," a connection that he didn't feel was warranted.
People in West Virginia are still reporting really gross water coming out of their taps: http://t.co/IWpOGmR38t— Kate Sheppard (@kate_sheppard) January 15, 2014
Since Atkin posted the photo on Monday, some residents in the region have begun seeing service restored, albeit not necessarily water that's drinkable (see image at right). The whole incident reinforces the need to protect water sources.
But don't take our word for it. "Healthy watersheds provide our communities with drinking water, recreational opportunities, environmental benefits and services," one blog post points out, "including clean water for healthy aquatic ecosystems, habitat for fish and wildlife, and better resilience against storms and floods, climate change and future land-use changes." That blog post, spotted by Atkins, was published in 2011 by the not-at-all-coal-industry related Freedom Industries. And if communities don't have clean drinking water, you can find some in your hotel room.