WV Rivers Coalition looks for solutions
Shepherdstown Ministerial Association hosted between 30 and 40 local residents interested in finding a way to prevent another water crisis like the one caused by the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries Oil Spill.
In a PowerPoint presentation Observer editor and water coalition staff member, David Lillard moderated a discussion about the work water advocates can do.
The West Virginia Water Coalition is known for its dedicated interest in preserving and protecting the state’s many natural waterways through policy reform.
Angie Rosser, executive director of the organization, answered questions via telephone from Charleston, where she’s continuing to follow clean water legislation currently moving through the state house.
Rosser is one of thousands of people in West Virginia who live along the Elk River and was personally impacted by the MCHM chemical contamination.
“Everyone got caught with their paints down,” Rosser said about the spill.
“It’s an embarrassment to our state,” she said.
Lillard said he believes it’s time that West Virginia realize its importance as a “headwater state.”
“We have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
“We really haven’t been taking advantage of it. We’ve been letting some other people take advantage of us.”
According to Lillard, the Elk is the longest river existing entirely within West Virginia state limits.
“It’s a pretty significant resource,” he said.
The West Virginia Rivers Coalition is making a push to recognize the point where the Elk meets five other regionally significant rivers in Monongahela National Forest, as a national monument. A first in West Virginia.
Calling it the “Birthplace of Rivers,” the group believes the designation would go a long way toward increased awareness and protection of all rivers around the state.
“If it can happen in Charleston, it can happen here,” Lillard said.
Lillard stressed the need for local residents to become informed and practice vigilance with regard to our own water source, the Potomac.
When asked what individuals could do, Rosser advised that people continue to contribute to water relief efforts, as federal aid to the Charleston region begins to decline.
Rosser also encouraged individuals to push lawmakers for tougher, “comprehensive,” regulations and enforcement.
“The other elephant in the room is the money,” she said.
“We have to have some hard conversations with our state leaders.”
Rosser said she doesn’t believe that state has held up its responsibilities in protecting citizens.
“We cannot just assume the government has it under control,” she said.
To sign the West Virginia River Coalitions petition for clean water measures and to find more info about the group, visit www.wvrivers.org.