Dozens advocate at West Virginia Capitol for clean drinking water

Published: Feb. 9, 2016 at 6:55 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's a headline many West Virginians want to forget: the water crisis of 2014 when a chemical spill into the Elk River left much of the Kanawha Valley without clean drinking water.

Dozens took to the Capitol to ensure that a water crisis does not happen again.

One of the speakers at the press conference with Citizen Groups Unite for Water Justice was Obi Henderson, a Charleston resident who has been involved in fighting for clean water since the crisis in 2014.

"Since then I've been pretty involved in the fight to ensure that our water is clean," he says.

Henderson partnered with 37 various organizations to hold Tuesday's press conference to encourage regulators and government officials to stop the rollback on laws regulating public water supply in West Virginia.

"God blessed me with a big heart. I think it's imperative that people have a voice and are heard," Henderson said. "Too many challenges and issues are in our community, because people just don't make time to speak out on what matters."

The group also read a letter they co-wrote to the community of Flint, Michigan, now in the midst of a water crisis of their own, as thousands of children have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead in the drinking water. Group leaders say the letter "To the people of Flint Michigan" and signed "The people of West Virginia" will be published in a Michigan newspaper Sunday.

"We felt an affinity with those people, because we know what it's like to be without water and to be frightened thinking about what this chemical or lead is doing to my body now and in the future and seeking answers," says Executive Director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition Angie Rossler, who also spoke at the event.

Rossler says the crisis in Flint, Michigan, should serve as an example for West Virginia lawmakers to tighten regulations on public water supply in the state this legislative session.

"I think that's why we saw such a good turnout today, because people want our lawmakers to know that we're paying attention to decisions made and we want you to think about public health when you're making those decisions," Rossler said.

Rossler and Henderson both hope that the strong showing the group saw at the West Virginia Capitol Tuesday presented a united front that will encourage others to get involved and lawmakers to ignite change.

Rossler says those interested in getting involved can visit