Water situation calls for expert advice - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Water situation calls for expert advice

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    Friday, July 25 2014 6:00 AM EDT2014-07-25 10:00:24 GMT
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    We say it often, but if West Virginia is going to reach its enormous potential, we will need a dynamic, robust educational system that challenges and prepares our people for the rigors of life in the 21st century.
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    Building and maintaining roads should not be a political issue. In fact, it should be pretty straightforward. Potholes need filled, drainage ditches need cleaned, the highways need striped — while it might be painstaking and expensive, the overall concept is pretty simple.
  • Looking the other way perpetuates criminal politics

    Looking the other way perpetuates criminal politics

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    Former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for his role in a political scheme that has dominated headlines for nearly a year and shined a bright light on one part of the state’s tangled web of public corruption.
    Former Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for his role in a political scheme that has dominated headlines for nearly a year and shined a bright light on one part of the state’s tangled web of public corruption.

We are almost a month out from the chemical spill on the Elk River near Charleston that tainted the water supply for nearly 300,000 people. 

Despite being told the water is safe, countless people in and around the affected area are not using it. Maybe what's coming out of the tap will not poison us or make us sick, but, the fact is, we cannot be sure. As this event has unfolded, those charged with keeping us safe and allaying our fears have yet to truly do so. This is a crisis and those in charge need to start treating it as such. 

No one is on the same page, and we are getting mixed information from those who are supposed to be in the know. Hopefully, as scientific experts and those more versed in handling these types of events begin their investigations, a clearer picture will begin to emerge and we'll have a better understanding of how to proceed. 

One thing we're certain of is that the economic harm has been devastating and it could get worse. This week, an economist at Marshall University estimated that the economy in and around the Charleston area took a multimillion dollar hit. Most affected by the loss of water were small businesses. These enterprises are already living in a tough market, often surviving by razor-thin profit margins. Many had to go without water for days and now many are relying almost exclusively on bottled water while trying to regain the public's trust. None of this is helping the bottom line. 

When we consider the larger picture, how do we promote and market a place where you cannot drink the water? Members of the business community are concerned, and they have every right to be. No one is diminishing the importance of pushing our state forward through legislation that encourages businesses to grow and invest, but that is simply window dressing if we are unable to attract and retain the kind of human capital needed to compete in the 21st Century. Right now, if someone has a choice between a job in Charleston and a job in Charlotte, which one would that person take? The Capital City is a wonderful place, but if what comes out of the tap in someone's potential home or apartment looks and smells like what's been coming out of our taps, that someone would be hard pressed not to go south. 

As we have said before, now is the time for action. What is the planning being given to how we come out the other side of this issue? We need to be proactive. This is classic crisis management. Do we have properly skilled professionals involved who can advise us what needs to be done at both a state and local level? We cannot change what happened, but we must do all we can to ensure that something like this never happens again.