A chemical spill into a river has spawned a major federal emergency declaration, with hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents told not to drink, do laundry, or bathe with their tap water. Schools have been closed, bars and restaurants shut down, and the National Guard called out to deliver bottled water and emergency supplies.
But when you go to the West Virginia Gazette website to get more info on this unfolding tragedy, one of the first things you learn is that the Rough N Rowdy Brawl at the Charleston Civic Center will still go on as planned!*
Nothing will stop this real-life version of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, the event where those "man enough" can pay to beat the living shit out their fellow human beings. The champion in each division (including the top bikini-clad "ring girl") will win $1,000. That's "a substantial sum when you're working two low-paying restaurant jobs to make ends meet" in a state where 17.6% of residents live below the federal poverty level. That's especially true this weekend, when all those minimum-wage eateries are closed because of the water contamination.
You may not be able to wash the blood off yourselves with the tainted water, but event coordinators do want all of you manly germophobes out there to rest assured that hand sanitizers will be thoughtfully provided in bathrooms.
Now that the important stuff is out of the way, West Virginia water officials say there is still no timeline for when the situation will be alleviated, or even how toxic the licorice-smelling water really is. They don't know for sure that the water is unsafe, but neither can they guarantee that it is. That is because the leaking chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, has never before been added to water as a chemical additive or flavor enhancer. Its apparent purpose was, oxymoronically enough, to clean coal.
As of this morning, Freedom Industries, source of the contamination, was not talking to the water people. As a matter of fact, according to the Gazette, it was business as usual at the chemical plant on Friday morning. Not one government official had yet visited the site.With a welcome sign like this greeting all comers, perhaps you can understand why:
It also might be a blessing in disguise that the leak occurred at the Charleston plant rather than at its other facility in a town called Nitro. According to the Freedom Industries website, the company is a leading producer of freeze conditioning agents, dust control palliatives, flotation reagents, water treatment polymers and other chemicals. It boasts that it can treat huge volumes of chemicals "rapidly and cost-effectively."
Nothing spells freedom like speedy and cheap.
* Update: Sanity later prevailed, and the event was postponed until next weekend.