To the People of Flint, Michigan:
We are parents, teachers, faith-leaders, students, business owners and residents of West Virginia—and we stand with you. These last weeks, we have seen you in the paper and on the news: a mother with her children outside of a community center waiting to receive bottled water; preachers giving comfort in packed emergency rooms filled with scared neighbors; protesters gathering and calling on their government officials to take action.
Two years ago, we stood in those same lines, visited local emergency rooms, and demonstrated in the halls of power because our water, too, had been poisoned. A chemical tank failure contaminated the water of 300,000 people across nine counties surrounding our capital city of Charleston. In the few short months following the West Virginia Water Crisis, we learned that our water company, our Public Service Commission, our legislature, and state, local and federal regulators were failing us at all levels. What’s more, no officials were willing to take responsibility for the crisis and each passed the buck to the next, pointing to one another’s failings. The truth is, they all failed us.
Today, we stand alongside you as you grieve and rage. We know that no gesture on our part can erase the damage that untold amounts of lead poisoning has wrought on your children’s bodies—their growth and development. We know that it’s not only your bodies that were damaged, but also any trust you’d placed in your government officials. We remember what it’s like to be told that our water was “safe” when our bodies told us it wasn’t.
And we know that it was no mistake that this crisis happened in Flint, a predominantly Black community and one of the poorest in the nation. We recognize that black communities and communities with high poverty rates, such as those counties affected by the West Virginia crisis, are at the greatest risk for water disasters across America. We live in a nation where environmental racism persists.
Working together across race and class in the aftermath of this disaster, we are making real change. We don’t have all the answers, but we are gaining ground for safe, reliable water here in West Virginia, as you are in Flint, Michigan.
We are with you.
— The People of West Virginia
Advocates for a Safe Water System
American Friends Service Committee
Appalachian Catholic Worker
Catholic Committee of Appalachia (WV Chapter)
Charleston WV Branch NAACP
Christians For The Mountains
Coal River Mountain Watch
Concerned Citizens of Roane County
Covenant House of West Virginia
Doddridge County Watershed Association
Friends of Water
Greenbrier River Watershed Association
Huntington-Cabell Branch of the NAACP
Kanawha Forest Coalition
Keeper of the Mountains
MelRose Ministries for Positive Transformative Change
Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
People Concerned About Chemical Safety
Plateau Action Network
POWHR (Preserve Our Water, Heritage, Rights)
Preserve Greenbrier County
RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s Survival)
South Central Educational Development, Inc.
Southern Appalachian Labor School
Stories From South Central, WV
Upper Potomac Riverkeeper
West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy
West Virginia Chapter NAACP
West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club
West Virginia Citizen Action Group
West Virginia Clean Water Hub
West Virginia Direct Action Welfare Group
West Virginia Environmental Council
West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition
West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light
WV FREE (West Virginia Focus: Reproductive Education and Equality)
West Virginia Rivers Coalition