On the banks of this river, I grew until I couldn’t anymore, and then I ran away. I never thought I would come back. I certainly never thought I would try (or fail so far) to write a book about it.
Four years ago, twenty three million pounds of chemicals were discharged into it — more than double the amount in the Mississippi — making it the MOST polluted waterway in the United States. And yet, out of the 25 million people living in the river basin, more than three million of them drink directly from this source.
Since 2001, more than 3,500 lawsuits have been filed claiming poisonous irresponsibility on behalf of the chemical corporation responsible. Long story short, they are getting away with it all, and there is nothing to stop them.
Even if there was, it's too late. Between 1951 and 2003, the same corporation released (directly into the Ohio River) at least 1.7 million pounds of a chemical called C8. Originally it was added to non-stick pans to help smooth out lumps, but because of its stain-resistant and slippery properties, the powdery substance became pervasive in the modern world, coating everything from fast food wrappers and pizza boxes to flooring and dental floss.
The CDC reported that the immortal compound pollutes the bloodstream of 99.7% of Americans, and it has been found in our umbilical cords and breastmilk. In 2014, the EPA found it in 94 drinking water systems that serve a total of 6.5 million Americans.
Nobody here in my hometown cares about the water. Nobody even knows, because it's really hard to give a fuck when most people scrape by paycheck to paycheck, and every person I know has a brother or uncle who, if they don't work for the same pharmaceutical companies responsible, they work for similar factories or in the coal mines. By nature of the societal structure and culture here, they can't care.
In the last week, we drove more than 4000 miles across America. The rivers in most of the country are so fucking beautiful it makes me mad. It's just not fair. It's not fair that we have to uproot our life, where our families have been for generations, just for clean water and air, and that everyone thinks we are crazy for it. 😥