The past week has been, and continues to be, a difficult and challenging time for the people of Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson, Lincoln, Roane, Clay and Logan counties whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of the chemical spill that rendered our water unusable.
The people of our State are resilient and, like West Virginians do in any crisis, have reached out to help one another in countless ways. Our fire departments, law enforcement officers and emergency service agencies, as well as our churches and charitable organizations, have worked around the clock to provide clean bottled water and supplies to our families. We are indeed fortunate to live in West Virginia where we work together and look out for one another.
Today, one week after the chemical spill, thousands remain without water. While the emergency team continues to work with the water company to restore water service, our most immediate priority must be to flush our water system and restore clean and usable water to our citizens in all of the affected areas.
We must concentrate on getting our students back in school and reopening our small businesses, such as restaurants and shops, so that our people can return to work. The House of Delegates unanimously passed today a bipartisan measure to provide relief to our small businesses. This was a small but much needed step to get our people back to work. We all recognize that even when our water service is restored, our children are back in the classroom, and our people are back to work, we still have a lot of work to do to restore our citizens’ confidence in the quality of our water and their sense of security and safety.
Those who caused the crisis which our people have been forced to endure must be held accountable for their actions. Federal and state agencies, including the United States Attorney's Office, the West Virginia Attorney General, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, are conducting exhaustive investigations into the causes of and the response to the chemical leak.
In addition to getting to the bottom of this crisis, I am confident the results of these investigations will provide state and federal officials, including the West Virginia Legislature, with valuable information that will allow us to take steps to ensure that this never happens again and restore our citizens’ confidence in their water service. However, there are immediate steps we can and should take now to address this issue.