Almost thirty years ago, I worked for a company overlooking the Elk River. I remember the storage tanks along the river banks that bordered I-64, thinking they were decrepit looking, even then. I wondered at that time, if the water was healthy. It was sickly green and looked contaminated. In fact, the region looked depressed overall. I didn’t know terms like “environmental injustice”, but in hind sight, I can see where the placement of those tanks and of the housing around them is indicative of the power of corporations to build on cheap land and pollute without any regard to the people they impact. They’re money buying property and lives at a discount.
Were there environmental studies conducted thirty years ago that could have warned of any potential dangers? How much easier was it then to promise jobs without regard to long-term risk of contaminants leaking into drinking water streams?
We have to demand, enforce and update environmental laws that protect our lands. We must look to alternatives to fossil fuels in order to eliminate the likelihood of more environmental spills occurring.
If corporations are people, we must punish them, as we would any person who jeopardized and terrorized the lives of others. Causing fear is an offense. How about civil lawsuits? Make the investors who reap annual dividends pay for the cleanup and insure people against all future health risks and emotional distress. I think that would spur a movement toward sustainable and socially responsible investments.
Speaking of environmental terrorism. As the polluted waters of the Elk River move downstream, imagine communities along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, wondering about what this spill will do to them. Water evaporates, leaving toxins in its wake.The people of Charleston live in constant terror, as we all should.