Rediscovering the Great Kanawha
23 January 2015
Among the lessons, large and small, to come out of the 2014 water
crisis is another way to think about the Kanawha River.
West Virginians can thank Randy Huffman, secretary of the state
Department of Environmental Protection, for suggesting that the
Kanawha River be restored to “Category A” protection status.
That’s the top standard and is assigned by default to all
waterways. A Category A stream is a potential source of drinking
water. For decades, the Kanawha River has been too polluted to
even consider running it through a treatment plant for people to
drink. A 70-mile stretch of the Kanawha east of Charleston has
been exempt from Category A protection.
But things change. Environmental understanding, technology and
manufacturing processes improve. Just because residents of the
Kanawha Valley have grown accustomed to thinking of the Kanawha as
undrinkable does not mean that it must always be so. Certainly the
contamination of the Elk River last January brought home to
everyone the value of having a second source of drinking water.
When the subject of the Kanawha came up before a Legislative
committee last month, one short-sighted delegate actually used it
as an opportunity to try to accomplish the exact opposite — to
remove Category A status from streams all over the state unless
they are currently used for drinking water. Enough other lawmakers
disagreed, and the proposal for more pollution and less safe
drinking water was defeated, at least for the moment.But you can
count on it coming up again. The state Manufacturer’s Association,
the Coal Association and several members of the Legislature were
all for it.
“That’s taking us backward,” Huffman told residents gathered at
the Capitol to mark the anniversary of the chemical spill earlier
this month. “That’s a policy, a rule change, that we just can’t
allow to happen.” Huffman promised to oppose any efforts by
lawmakers to take away from West Virginia streams the default
status that protects them as potential drinking water sources. His
comments drew strong applause.
No wonder. West Virginians know they cannot live without clean
water. If people cannot live here, no one’s enterprise will
We have repeatedly said that the only acceptable way to come out
of the 2014 water crisis is as the people who learned their
lesson, who have clean, reliable, trustworthy water. Rediscovering
the Great Kanawha River and beginning to protect its purity for
the future is a wise and welcome part of that process.
- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150123/ARTICLE/150129733/1103#sthash.zULNpaNJ.dpuf