February 8, 2016
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 herchildren 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 offcials 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 thewater 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 ServiceCommission, 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 communities of color and communitieswith 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 VirginiaAdvocates for a Safe Water SystemAmerican Friends Service CommitteeAppalachian Catholic WorkerCatholic Committee of Appalachia (WV Chapter)Charleston WV Branch NAACPChristians For The MountainsCoal River Mountain WatchConcerned Citizens of Roane CountyCovenant House of West VirginiaDoddridge County Watershed AssociationFriends of WaterGreenbrier River Watershed AssociationHuntington-Cabell Branch of the NAACPKanawha Forest CoalitionKeeper of the MountainsMelRose Ministries for Positive TransformativeChangeMountain Lakes Preservation AllianceOhio Valley Environmental CoalitionPeople Concerned About Chemical SafetyPlateau Action NetworkPOWHR (Preserve Our Water, Heritage, Rights)Preserve Greenbrier CountyPreserve MonroeRAMPS (Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’sSurvival)Southern Appalachian Labor SchoolStories From South Central, WVWest Virginia Center on Budget and PolicyWest Virginia Chapter of Sierra ClubWest Virginia Citizen Action GroupWest Virginia Clean Water HubWest Virginia Direct Action Welfare GroupWest Virginia Environmental CouncilWest Virginia Healthy Kids and Families CoalitionWest Virginia Interfaith Power and LightWV FREE (West Virginia Focus: ReproductiveEducation and Equality)West Virginia Rivers CoalitionandCrystal Good @cgoodwomanEllen Allen and Sue JulianKaran IrelandMaya NyePaula SwearenginShirley Rosenbaum