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Poisoned Waters: We Can Help

Update 1/22/14: Since the 15th, Solar Cross has received $1237 in donations. We will be sending money to West Virginia today. We give thanks to everyone who spread the word, and to Crow, Ellen, Kristina, Shannon, Christine, Jenya, Samara, Marian, Laura, Helene, Mary, Fortuna, Jody, James, Tony, Sean, Joan, Lily, Karen, Denise, Rebecca, Rosalind, Kimberly, Elizabeth, Jason, Gerald, Lezlie, Kimberly, Justyna, Christine, Rhiannon, Jennifer, Misha and Benjamin.


This piece has was updated 9 hours after the posting of the original to add the new quote from Kelly Mir and some new information gathered from Pagans on the ground in West Virginia. Thank you to everyone who has written in, and to all of you donating to help.

“I have felt so enraged since the chemical spill last week in the Elk River. I realized yesterday that my heart feels like West Virginia and her inhabitants have been made into victims for so many years because of the coal industry. It feels like it has become part of the West Virginia DNA to believe that industry and jobs are more important than safety or the environment… Don’t [people] understand that if we don’t protect the land we don’t have anything?” – Shannon Swan, West Virginia local 

The story about the poisoning of West Virginia water is both convoluted and simple: “clean coal”, mountain top removal, crushing poverty, and greed. A heedless corporation – Freedom Industries – spilled 4-methylcyclohexane methanol from “clean coal” operations into the watershed and more than 300,000 people, plus local fish, birds, and animals, ended up with toxic water.

These people are struggling. Even though the water has been deemed drinkable by officials, brown, toxic smelling sludge continues to flow from the taps. 

When I first heard about the disaster, my thought was to raise funds to send water shipments to the hardest hit towns. In talking with local Pagan, Shannon Swan, I was pointed to a different need:

No clean water means that restaurants, cafes and other places many working class people rely on for income are closed, or, as some locals have told me, though some restaurants have re-opened, things like coffee are being made with affected water. Restaurant workers in the US, as we know, rely on tips to survive. A week without work, plus these ongoing conditions, is making life very difficult.

Paul Dalzell of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston writes:

 “I have worked in, and have many friends in, the food service industry, and I am very concerned for them.  This is an urgent problem for both the minimum wage workers who barely make it in the best of times, and the waitstaff and help who often live from day to day on their tips.”  

These people already live close to the bone. Solar Cross Temple is raising funds to send to the Unitarian church in Charleston, who will get the money to local people in need.

This is a disaster for the trees, the water, the animals, the land, and the people. If you cannot afford a donation, please offer whatever prayers you can, and pass this announcement along. Donations of any amount are welcomed. Donations to Solar Cross Temple are tax deductible.

Please send money via PayPal to with the subject and a note “West Virginia Disaster”.

We will pool the money and send it in lump sums to the congregation in Charleston, so they don’t have to deal with multiple small checks.

Resident Kelly Mir wrote to me, saying:

Thank you for being attentive to this; we {West Virginians) are in a location openly called a “sacrifice zone,” but few are paying attention. I am a Reclaiming Priestess, a student of Feri, a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a long-time active member of the UU Congregation of Charleston, WV, where efforts are being made to help those most harmed by our most recent crisis. I am also a descendent of some of the first Europeans into this area, and of some of the Original People as well. This land is held deeply in my heart, and the oppression of this land and its people goes back many, many generations.

Everything helps. If you would rather donate directly, Paul writes: “make checks available to UUC and write “Service Worker Fund” on them.” The address is

Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd. E, Charleston WV 25302

And let us continue to work for a world based on love and justice rather than profit and greed.



I also just read this piece on emergency rooms being flooded with people who ingested the water that was recently deemed “safe”. 

“Thank you” messages are already coming in from West Virginians via my Facebook page at the prospect of donations. Everything helps, even just the thought that people care.

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