West Virginia disaster was preventable

The water supply contamination in Charleston, W.Va., could have been prevented if common sense and good judgment had been applied.

Why were these harmful chemicals stored beside a tributary to a major river? Why was this toxin not labeled as dangerous in the first place? Why hadn’t anyone been inspecting this facility?

Like many other industrial complexes, it was constructed where it was the most convenient, not where it was the safest. The chemical tanks, operated by Freedom Industries, were placed right beside the Elk River, where there was a high risk of spills and running into the waterway.

It took a disastrous accident for government officials to realize the facility was in the wrong place and to order the company to dismantle the tanks.

West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) did not strictly regulate the coal-cleaning chemical because it was not believed to be extremely toxic. Though not toxic or carcinogenic, it was still a water pollutant that affected the water supply of 300,000 people. Chemicals that can do this much harm must be categorized as serious pollutants and should not be permitted to be stored so close to a waterway.

To make matters worse, the West Virginia DEP claimed it was only being stored, and there was little need to inspect the facility. Whether it was in storage, being transported or being manufactured, it was still unsafe to be near a main water supply.

This disaster was inexcusable, avoidable and expensive. West Virginia taxpayers will pick up the tab for this now bankrupt company that took shortcuts to save money.

Hopefully, everyone can learn some important lessons from the mistakes of this irresponsible corporation.

Mark Frederick