For the land and the people – by D Steele
The MCHM chemical spill that poisoned the Elk River and the municipal water of over 300,000 people is not an isolated event, an anomaly or an act of god. It is also not an incident that happens in the vacuum of Appalachia, this can and does happen in every and all communities that deal with resource extraction.
As the amount of fossil fuels diminish globally, extractive industries continue to cut more and more corners, and endanger the land, water, and health of an increasingly large amount of the world’s population.
Resistance to the increasingly frequent crises created by capitalism is a matter of survival for the people of Appalachia. All of us at the RAMPS campaign have seen this in action: we have seen the coal industry depopulate communities throughout West Virginia. Communities like Twilight, Welch, Blair, and countless others are either ghosts towns or shells of their former self.
One of the primary mechanisms for this depopulation has been to contaminate the streams, wells, and water tables of the people of Appalachia. Valley fills bury thousands of local streams, chemical spills poison water supplies and slurry injection leaches heavy metals into the wells of the people in Rawl and Prenter.
Sustained resistance to the coal industry and capitalism is only possible in Appalachia if people’s basic needs needs are met. The RAMPS Campaign’s work with the West Virginia Clean Water Hub comes from this idea.
RAMPS has focused a lot of our efforts in the community of Prenter. Prenter is a case study of what extractive industries can do to a community’s water supply. Community members fought for years with our allies at Sludge Safety Project to get municipal water after discovering that decades of underground slurry injections and massive strip mining operations by Massey Energy had poisoned their well water and streams. After just a few years of clean drinking water, they are once again without safe water. Poisoned groundwater, poisoned streams, and now poisoned municipal water.
The time has come to work with this community and continue the first step of resistance, self-preservation. Through mutual aid, cooperation, and community involvement, all of us at the RAMPS Campaign are dedicated to working on the frontlines of the water crisis and fighting for the future of Appalachia. Our work isn’t charity. Working on the water crisis is just another chapter in West Virginian’s struggle for survival.