I received a news clip over the weekend that reminded me that it has been 10 years since one of the most serious public health crises to ever affect the Mountain State took place.
Many will remember the Elk River spill on January 9, 2014, when hazardous chemicals leaked into the Elk River near Charleston and spread through a public water system used by 300,000 Kanawha Valley residents. You can bet they will never forget.
The Elk River spill brought about changes in regulations following this contamination of a public water source. Most notably for providers such as Marlinton, was the Source Water Protection Act. This Plan required public utilities to increase monitoring and create alternative water sources, in the event of a primary water source becoming unusable, for any reason.
Beyond agricultural run-off, the biggest threat to the water plant intake in Marlinton would be (God-forbid) a truck load of petroleum product, upside down in Knapps Creek. Also, we have learned from the Lewisburg mishap, when a fuel truck spilled product into Anthony Creek. Knowing the product would make its way to the Greenbrier River, the Lewisburg water plant shut its intake off about eight hours sooner than would have been necessary.
Since then, our county EMS has conducted flow-studies on Knapps Creek – thank you Mike O’Brien. Different products flow downstream at a different pace and now in the event of such an accident, we can more accurately decide when to close the intake, but not before we have to.
Marlinton is so blest to have one of the cleanest and most pristine water sources in the state. Yes, Marlinton has some distribution lines that are old and in need of replacement. But, we are working toward a project to eventually take care of that problem.
For those who condemn and chatter about Marlinton water, google safe water versus clean water and you will read the following. There is a difference. Because clean water isn’t always safe, and safe water isn’t always clean.
Imagine two glasses of water in front of you. One is clear; odorless and inviting. The other is a little cloudy. You can see a few particles in it, and it has a slight aroma. Which would you choose to drink? No doubt, you would pick the first one. It’s clean, and the other one is not.
However, what if you learned that the clear water actually contained non-visible impurities such as bacteria, nitrates or dangerous levels of arsenic or fluoride? Counterintuitively, the murky water in this situation is actually safer to consume. This is why the distinction between safe water and clean water is so vital because clear or clean water is not always safe to drink. The reverse is also true, that safe water does not always look clear and uncontaminated.
Full disclosure: My reflection on clean water:
As a young boy, growing up on my family’s Barbour County farm, I cannot remember the number of times that I cupped my hands and drank out of an open stream flowing through the woods. Likewise, I cannot remember the number of times I may have later had a belly-ache without considering what domestic animal or wild-game may have relieved itself, upstream from where I had decided to get a drink.
Happy New Year!