• 64°

W.Va. needs answers from company

It could be days before our neighbors in West Virginia have water that is safe to drink or bathe in due to a chemical leak by Freedom Industries.

Since Thursday, some 300,000 West Virginia American Water customers have had to go without one of the most essential elements of life, relying on water from distribution centers set up during this state of emergency.

It seems local and state government officials have done everything possible to keep the public and media informed about any developments in the situation, although little new information has surfaced since the chemical used to wash coal — 4-methylcyclohexane methanol — was found to have leaked into the Elk River. It is still unknown when the water will be safe for consumption and skin contact.

The leak has crippled the Kanawha Valley and has left people scared and wanting answers.

Gary Southern, president of Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical leaked into the water, gave little comfort during an all too short press conference Friday evening. He couldn’t say how much of the chemical has leached into the water supply or when the leak actually began.

The man tried to walk away from reporters several times, saying “it has been an extremely long day.” Thankfully, persistent reporters demanded he stay and answer their questions.

While it may have been a “long day” for Southern, the people of the Kanawha Valley have no idea when they can begin living normal lives again. Everyday will be a long day for those who must stand in line for a few jugs of water.

Southern’s stunted answers and unwillingness to stand before the public and own up to his company’s mistakes are unacceptable.

The Department of Environmental Protection was absolutely justified in ordering Freedom Industries to cease operations and we hope the company will be fully investigated.

For now, the chemical is slowly dissipating from the water, but for West Virginians, relief can’t come quick enough.

They deserve answers and we are encouraged by the actions of local and state officials who have worked around the clock to provide those answers and work to return normalcy to the people.