Volunteer Profile: Getting Water to WV Residents -- Fighting to Keep WV Water Clean
In 1998, seven years after the last inspection of the Freedom Industries chemical storage site on the Elk River, Jen-Osha Buysee founded Aurora Lights. Her non-profit has dedicated itself to restoring a sense of balance between communities and the land around them. Jen-Osha, her staff and a band of volunteers spend their time raising awareness about the dangers of mountaintop removal coal mining, promoting local arts and engaging in educational programs for youth in West Virginia.
Now, she and her dedicated group of citizens spend their time trucking load after load of clean water from their base in Morgantown two and a half hours down Highway 79 to the small towns around Charleston that are still without clean water more than a week after the water crisis began.
Jen-Osha is acting on an urge many of us feel but never quite seem to act on when all is well. Uncommon in normal times, the impulse to reach out and help those in need, has turned into the driving passion for many in West Virginia.
As they look upon community members in need, folks from across the state and, truly, the nation have turned out their pockets and given their time to ensure people in the hills and hollows of rural West Virginia have clean water.
It's something many of us take for granted. Water, clean and pure from the tap, seems to be an undeniable truth.
Sadly, the Freedom Industries disaster pulled back the curtain on a silent crisis that has been poisoning West Virginians water for years.
Clean water, safe and available for all, is a right we should all expect without interruption and certainly without fear of harm or danger. But this is not the case in Appalachia. Here, the coal and chemical industries have done their level best in the last few decades to stunt reasonable clean water protections; and they’ve succeeded. The current crisis is just the most visible of the tragedies that these miners, farmers, teachers and community members face every day.
That’s what makes Jen-Osha, and those who share her passion, so extraordinary; her years of advocacy and educational efforts and her strong links to the community have turned into real action. During the crisis she has worked tirelessly to get donations for bottled water and then moved to get it to those in need. She and her team have loaded up everything from large flatbed trucks to personal vehicles in order to truck water on a 6 to 8 hour round trip into some of the hardest hit parts of the state. Taking water to places like Boone County, Pennsboro, West Union and Moorehead where she’ll be today.
It is amazing to see such an outpouring of support by so many in times of crisis. Lax clean water protections, years of government indifference and industries who care more about their own bottom line than they do about the wellbeing of the communities where they exist brought this crisis about. But it’s the people, with a love for their community, working to ensure the right to clean water for everyone, even when the government is unwilling or unable to protect its citizens that is the real story right now.
Soon, we’ll all ask how it is we can ensure this never happens again. But right now, across West Virginia people are showing just how strong our communities truly are.