Monthly Archives: January 2014

Marshall Honor Band

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything and I cannot decide if it is because I have the winter blues or if we have been busy or if it is the effects of the water chaos and snow.  Speaking of snow, we are covered again and stuck inside with the latest polar blast…like the other 250 million or so people in the country who are affected by it.

Omega March


Engines of Resistance

Anyhow, one interesting thing we did get into recently was Isaac’s involvement with the Marshall University Honor Band.  The Honor Band is an honor for middle school students.  Each school’s band director nominates their best students for a one day seminar with the Marshall University School of Music staff.  Students from the tri-state area come together in one day and get excellent instruction throughout the day that pinpoints their specific instrument.  Later in the evening, the students put on a concert.

What makes this concert especially impressive to me is that the band kids have never seen the music prior to the start of the day.  They learn the music and somehow pull together as a group in a single day.  It’s amazing but really so awesome to see and hear!  So, take a listen if you please…maybe you can forget about the polar vortex and poison water for awhile!

And now, onto the snow!

I hate snow.  I didn’t always hate snow but I hate it now.  As this has been a weird winter, I sort of guess I’ll need to just deal with it.  If not, my crying will likely freeze tears right to my face.    If it wasn’t for the cold and wet and the hazardous driving, and the cold and the wet, I might enjoy the snow itself well enough.  It is pretty after all.

Patrick Street bridge in the snow
Patrick Street bridge in the snow

I was up sort of early this morning and snapped this picture of a bridge in town.  You know, I sort of have a thing for bridges…especially blue ones apparently.  Anyhow, I thought this was a pretty scene.  Of course my feet got wet and snow ran clear down my back to…well…you know…clear down my back as it melted.  It’s still falling like crazy and the kids are out of school for weather rather than our water disaster.  I suppose there is happiness in my house…or will be when everyone finally wakes up!

Wearing the badge of honor

I have so many thoughts going through my head as we begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel with our water mess.  Most of the affected water contamination zone has been cleared to start using water again although most people still don’t trust the water enough to actually drink it.  We are definitely in that camp…we are washing with the still-smelling-like-licorice tap water but not using it for drinking, cooking or teeth-brushing.

The CDC reported that pregnant women should not drink this water even though it has been declared “safe”.  Of course, that makes everyone wonder who it is really safe for….1 year olds?  What about 5 year olds?  There is no good answer here I think but what choice do we have?  Of course, I don’t want to move as some people have threatened, but even if I did, who would buy a house in a contaminated area?  No, we will stay here and this will pass.  It prompts many questions though.

Many people are over-the-top mad and many of them are directing it at the water company but I think their anger is misdirected.  The water company is the only entity communicating to the public so they are easy to yell at.  The damn chemical tank owner is to blame here but they are no where to be found.

Someone else mentioned it first but I sort of agree…too many times in Appalachian history, we have some massive issue like this and we wear our survival of the event as a badge of honor.  “This was a terrible disaster, but we are strong people…we’ll get through.”  It’s great to persevere, but it is a real shame that we have to…It’s not just here in WV either of course.  In my home town in PA, gas fracking is poisoning the ground as non-local companies pump thousands of gallons of chemicals into the earth, find their gas and leave town.  Locals are stuck living with the long term repercussions.  It’s a tragedy really but one that they wear as a badge of honor there as well.

I guess this badge of honor isn’t unique to Appalachia…maybe it is common to rural dwellers, the poor or just anyone who can’t fight back.  It makes me sad and mad that the human condition is, and perhaps always has been, one of simply surviving atrocity after atrocity.  Truly, this disaster has not been the disaster it could have been if a more horrible chemical had leaked, but dumb luck doesn’t really make me feel better.

It IS a sad condition and a shame to wear this disaster as a badge of honor but most here will do just that.  I suppose I will too as I don’t really see any other option.  We’re a tough people though…we’ll get through it…

Time to flush

We had a bit of a water disaster here in Charleston.  It’s been called Aquapocalypse 2014…that’s probably a good term for the mess that we’ve had, but good news is coming!  It looks like our zone just got cleared to flush our water system (edit:  this just “undid” our area…dang it!).    WV American Water has done a fantastic job (in my opinion) as far as being rightly conservative in issuing the “Do not use” order as well as providing information and getting the systems back on line.  Sure, it would have been nice if our water system hadn’t been polluted, but that wasn’t their fault…it was the chemical company that apparently did not maintain proper safety systems.

Charleston Last Night
Charleston Last Night

So, the plan was to monitor the treatment system to find a point when the dilution of the chemical was at a level the CDC reported was safe…that is less than 1 ppm.  In laymen’s terms, what that means is if we had a million gallons of liquid, 1 gallon would be 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM).  There is much discussion as to whether that is truly a safe level for consumption.  I am concerned of course because the plan means I will be consuming some of that chemical…even in my  “safe” water.  I get that my drinking water is not straight h20 even before all this,  but I wish it could just be MCHM-free again.  That’s not a reality now however so we will proceed to shower in the water that has been declared “safe”.  In our house, we will not be drinking or brushing with it for awhile longer but ultimately, we will have to just “go for it” I guess.  Again, I don’t blame the water company of the officials on the ground for making this decision and all will probably be well…I just want my perfect world to return!

"Safe" water zones
“Safe” water zones…we are in the blue!

So we will drain our hot water tanks and all of the pipes in our house.  We will follow the nicely written directions provided by the water company and we will get back to normal.  I think most people have done really well in handling their situations.  Thursday night when this all started, it was a little wild as initial panic set in but people quickly got their heads on straight.

Water was trucked in from far and wide and distributed all over.  Neighbors checked on neighbors, and friends in safe-water-zones offered the homes and showers to others to make this all a little better than it would have been.  I am proud of my fellow West Virginians and of my state and local government (and maybe even the feds?) for how they handled this situation.  I saw a little more clearly as it was exercised before my eyes, the importance of community and helping others.  I also saw very clearly the benefit of having some extra water and water containers on hand.  I now realize how very much I appreciate having a shower and even more importantly, I realize how much I appreciate other people having showers.  Even so, I am proud to be a Mountaineer, stinky or not, and I am delighted to have such a great community who get down to business when the going gets tough!

Water…or not

We made the news here in Charleston, WV.  It seems that there exists a several-thousand-gallon tank of chemicals used to clean coal (See here for a reddit discussion on it…thoughtful now but reddit often quickly turns wild wild west…so be warned) which is stationed along the river from which all of our water is drawn and processed.  The tank developed a leak recently…maybe yesterday and maybe earlier depending on who you hear…which leaked into the river.  Of course, that means that the water system pulled it in and ran it through the processing plant in preparation for distribution to everyone.

Water systems are designed to process typical stuff one finds in river water so this extra 5000+ gallons of stuff was not properly removed during the intake process.  No one seems to know how to remove it actually, even if it had been detected earlier.  That means the entire water system supplied by the water treatment plant was contaminated.  More good news…the plant that services Charleston, WV’s Capital and largest city, is the largest system in the state and supplies water to at least 8 surrounding counties leaving 300,000+ people with tainted water.

My family is among those lucky 300,000 so we are following the order to not use the water under any circumstance aside from fire protection (which we have not yet needed, thank goodness).  The water company is not at fault here but there are people blaming them for not notifying customers sooner (it took several hours for the entire issue to become apparent).  Some folks cannot believe that the water treatment plant didn’t detect the chemical until people complained of a “licorice-like” smell in the air, at their faucets, etc.  The water company replied that this was such an unheard of problem and that there was no good protocol to test or clean it and that they cannot possibly test for every potential contaminant.  Rather, they are designed to handle typical river-source contaminants.  I am not doing it justice but the water company has an excellent answer to the question and is not to blame here at all as far as I am concerned.  Instead, the owners of the leaking tank are completely to blame and I hope they find very expensive justice.

Ok, sorry for the rant.  Anyhow, people are behaving in all sorts of ways…some nice and some not so much.  There were runs on all of the stores for people trying to buy water, ice, drinks last night.  The local Sam’s club apparently went through 4200 cases of water in 1.5 hours.  Everywhere was wild and the cops were called into most stores to manage the unruly.  It makes me thankful that we have some water at the house.  Showering is my only real concern and I figure we will make it one way or another to get clean.

I heard that something like 20% of the state’s area is affected by this so we can’t just go to the next town over to get a hotel.  They are out of luck too.  Restaurants are closed, hospitals are on rationing protocols and stuff generally sucks.  Local government and FEMA are (from what I can tell) doing a great job in getting water to people who need it.  The big issue, from what I can tell, is that no one knows how to remedy this situation or how long it will take to work through the system/get cleaned/kill us all.

So dear friends, please consider keeping a bit of water for bathing and drinking in your house.  This problem hit fast here and may last for a significant time.  The unprepared rushed the stores and not all behaved appropriately.  I am very thankful we have water stored at the house so we didn’t have to go out amongst all of the people, some of whom were desperate.  While the government sources seem to be doing well in passing out water today, I am hoping to avoid those distribution areas as well as crowds have drawn there too.  It’s really a matter of how long this lasts though…we shall see!

Ok, that’s all from here.  I’d say we’ll keep a light on for you, but you probably shouldn’t visit right now!

Snow sucks…and other stuff

Right after Christmas, the kids and I went to PA to visit with my family.  Various things have gone down recently which changed other plans so this was sort of a spur of the moment trip.  Luckily, my brother and sister-in-law were able to make it too so we had a chance to just goof around together.

Ring bologna!
Ring bologna!  Breakfast of champions!

So we left WV on Friday morning and headed North.  It was pleasant when we left here but as we approached Tionesta, PA, we found snow.  Luckily it wasn’t on the roads but snow still sucks.  Of course, in my misery, I felt the need for comfort food.  Comfort food is a personal thing of course, but to me it meant ring bologna (on this trip at least).  There is a local store that used to be sort of famous for their ring bologna.  I stopped there before even going to my parents’ home.  I swear they used to have rings just hanging from the rafters but I suppose sanitation concerns took over eventually.  They still had bologna but it was sealed and in a refrigerated case.  I don’t think any other part of the store had been cleaned since the last time I was there 25 years ago, but the bologna was good.

Snowman time!
Snowman time!
Teenager snowman
Teenager snowman

Abigail and my SIL saw the snow as an opportunity so they headed out to build snowmen.  There wasn’t a lot of snow but they worked with what they had.  They made a snow turtle, a snow pig, a snow teenager(complete with smart phone) and a snowman.  Definitely cool…but snow still sucks.

It's science time!
It’s science time!
It's science time!
More science time…with Mountain Dew
Crazy elf!
Crazy elf!
Bad elf!
Bad elf!

We ate meat and cheese for lunch and opened some gifts.  Abigail got a chemistry set from my brother, the chemist, so they did some experiments and no one got hurt.  We ate more meat and cheese and drank a little beer…just a little.  Then we acted like idiots.  Well, we didn’t just start then but it became more apparent as the day went on.  We had a pretty good time and I think I finally am recovered from eating all that ring bologna!