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Groups Help After Chemical Spill

By: Jillian Risberg Email
By: Jillian Risberg Email

Groups like The Salvation Army and American Red Cross, including our local chapters are doing what they do best, serving those hardest hit by the chemical spill.

Four days of frustration after 300,000 West Virginians found out their tap water isn't safe, but there's an abundance of help.

"The Salvation Army here in Parkersburg has shipped over 16 skids of water, which equals right around 30,000 bottles of water,” says Lt. Erik Henry, West Virginia VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) representative.

If you add the Huntington, Beckley, Ashland, KY and Richmond, KY chapters, they distributed 150,000 bottles.

And the Red Cross also provided H2O.

"We helped pass out about over 200,000 bottles of water, also about 650 heater meals to the local residents down there that have been affected,” says Todd Wines, disaster program manager for territory 1, West Virginia Region of the American Red Cross.

The President declared the West Virginia chemical spill a federal disaster.

"FEMA has had several truckloads of water available,” Henry says. “The last number I saw was 1.8 million liters of water that have been given out in the city of Charleston and the surrounding counties."

It's hard to hear this kind of news.

"You start thinking about what might happen to your own water up here and how this could happen anywhere, especially with all the plants we do have along the rivers up here,” Wines says.

As a Salvation Army West Virginia VOAD, Henry is on the front lines when disaster strikes.

"So on the day of the spill we got the phone call saying that they needed some help, so we went down to try to get an eyes on to see what we could do,” he says.

Most people were just trying to get inside.

"‘Cause it had that sweet aroma in the air and at that time it was very unclear of what people were allowed to do; if it was gonna be effects by the chemical itself just by breathing it or skin irritation,” Henry says.

And Wines oversees West Virginia disasters.

"That’s what Red Cross is there for and we're always there to respond,” he says.

Sometimes we take the basic things in life for granted.

"Then to find out you're gonna be without water for a week to two weeks -- now, pandemonium could begin to set in, stress, worries,” Henry says. “And so The Salvation Army (is) there to pray with people, to give family comfort, to hopefully calm people's nerves as best as possible."

If you want to pitch in but don't know exactly where…

"You can always call the office here and we can get you in touch with the appropriate people,” Wines says.

It's about neighbors looking out for neighbors.

"That’s the thing about West Virginia that I have noticed in my four years of living here -- is people in the state of West Virginia all come together to help each other,” Henry says.

Lax West Virginia regulations leave many unanswered questions in the wake of the chemical spill.


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