300,000 People Were Exposed to a Toxic Chemical in W. Va. - Why Is the EPA Investigating It Four Months Later?


America doesn’t give a rat’s ass about poor people.

Case in point: what’s going on in West Virginia right now.

Almost four months after 10,000 gallons of a toxic coal-cleaning chemical known as MCHM leaked into the Elk River and poisoned the water supply of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians — the federal government is just now starting to look into what happens to people who inhale that chemical. 

Over the next few months, the Environmental Protection Agency — the EPA — will take vapor samples and then try to establish some sort of safe inhalation limit.

And while any action is better than no action, the EPA’s investigation is too little too late.

That’s because it doesn’t do anything to help the almost 300,000 people who were already exposed to MCHM vapors when the chemical started leaking into their water supply in January.

As Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department told the Charleston Daily Mail — “I’m at a loss as to what the utility is to the 300,000 people [already exposed to MCHM] from this particular test.”

Of course, it would be one thing if the public knew about what the long term effects of MCHM exposure are, but it doesn’t, and it will probably be years — decades even — before we know how destructive the Elk River spill really was.

To add insult to injury, if this recent information is all news to you, that’s sadly not surprising.

Although the Elk River spill was national news back in January and February — it’s fallen off the radar of the mainstream media ever since.

Why? Because West Virginia is mostly full of poor people, and it's mostly poor people who are being hurt by this spill. 

Of course — had the Elk River spill occurred in the Hudson River off the wealthy Upper West Side of Manhattan or in the Potomac River along the upscale Georgetown waterfront — it would be the top story on mainstream network and cable news shows every single night.

And can you imagine what the reaction would be if toxic chemicals leaked into New York City’s water supply and it took the EPA four months to see how dangerous it was to inhale those chemicals?

But because the Elk River spill happened mostly in rural, poor and depressed West Virginia, no one in the mainstream media cares.

The corporate media’s silence on this ongoing environmental disaster in West Virginia is pretty representative of the state of the country these days.

While we’re outraged that an old racist like Clippers owner Donald Sterling smears a wealthy African American like Magic Johnson and the well-paid members of the Clippers team — we never had a national conversation about his ideas on race during the decades that he’s been discriminating against his impoverished black and Latino tenants.

And while Congress can find the time for yet another trip down the Benghazi rabbit hole, it still hasn’t extended unemployment benefits or raised the minimum wage — two things that would actually help struggling Americans.

Everywhere you look these days, the two main institutions that should protect the powerless — our media and our government — are standing idly by as the country marches through a new Gilded Age.

After all — as I'm sure you'll see on the corporate news shows this week and this coming Sunday's "Meet The Republican" news shows — why talk about poisoned poor people in West Virginia when there are fancy rich people at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?

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