chemical plant
Credit: Roy Luck/flickr

West Virginia’s Charleston Gazette has a daily feature titled “Boil Water Advisories” that updates residents on where such advisories have been issued. That is likely a result of West Virginia’s water crisis.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection released a proposal to update about 60 water quality standards, based on recommendations from the Obama administration’s EPA, that would have reduced known carcinogens in rivers and streams. When the state legislature began consideration of the proposal, the West Virginia Manufacturers Association (dominated by Dow Chemical), objected.

They argue that the EPA encourages states to incorporate state-specific science, and that because West Virginians are heavier, their bodies can handle more pollutants, and that because they drink less water, they are less exposed to the pollutants. They have commissioned a worker to gather that state-specific information.

I found that hard to believe. Would a lobbying group actual claim that West Virginia’s residents aren’t in need of safe drinking water because they are overweight and drink less water? As an environmental health professor at West Virginia University School of Public Health pointed out, “any amount of a carcinogen can be cancer-causing, and heavier bodies may already have other problems, like inflammation, that increase risk for cancer.”

Here’s what the West Virginia Manufacturers Association published about all of that on their web site:

Human health criteria are developed after consideration of several factors such as body weight, fish and water consumption, type and trophic level of fish consumed, cancer slope factors, relative source contribution, etc. Changing one of the factors changes the ultimate criterion. For example, the calculated criteria could be higher in states where the amount of water people drink less than the national average that the EPA used in developing default criteria. In the case of the WVMA work, experts are not looking at body weight or water consumption, but are evaluating several other factors, primarily trophic levels of fish consumed in West Virginia and confirming that the cancer slope factors and relative source contributions are consistent throughout West Virginia’s environmental programs. Other factors may need to be investigated, but at this point that is undetermined.

What a load of elitist gobbledygook! I took some time to try to work out what they’re saying and, contrary to what they suggest, it doesn’t dispute the quote up above.

The other thing I learned from visiting the West Virginia Manufacturers Association web site is that the assumption that coal mining is the dominant manufacturing industry in that state is wrong.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Democrats were on the receiving end of countless lectures about how “liberal elites” looked down their noses at Trump voters. No state in the union represents Trump country more than West Virginia—where he won by 42 points.

I would suggest that the real “elites” who are looking down their noses at the Trump voters of West Virginia are those manufacturing companies producing chemical products that contaminate their water supply while telling them that, because they’re so fat and don’t drink enough water, they can handle being exposed to carcinogens. That also applies to any politician who does their bidding. If that makes me an elitist…so be it.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.