Reflections on Institute, WV
You don't know how happy I am that the Powers That Be have decided to send investigators to our village of Institute, WV to try and determine what exactly happened at the Bayer Plant, and what should be done about it.
People were terrorized, endured mental and physical suffering, and died as a result of that horrible incident in August, 2008. The plant reacted very irresponsibly and refused to properly notify the citizens, emergency response teams, news, and even the EPA. The country was appaled at the destruction and bad behavior caused by Bayer, a company known worldwide for having a name associated with the ease of suffering.
I am, however, quite angry at the fact that is has taken so long to get this sort of response. I can't say I've ever been happy to the point of cheering, and angry to the point of feeling my face and body get hot at the exact same time before.
Don't get me wrong--I'm very grateful that the country is taking action against the plant. But everyone seems to be acting like this is the first time that something like this has happened. That's what bothers me the most.
It hurts me that people had to give their lives again in order for someone to look our way. (By the way, I still haven't heard of any formal apology from the plant to the families of the people that died) I'd like to share some graphic memories with you at this time. What's funny is, I've found articles that match up with some of what I remember.
I was a young kid, about 2-4.. this puts us in the very early 1980's. I can remember waking up in the early morning and hearing all kinds of sounds outside.. the normal stuff you wake up to. There was the church organ from the Nazarine Church, which is always nice. Then the sounds of nature.. woodpecker and robin. Then there were two other sounds I could never quite figure out at first. Over time I learned that they were the morning dove and the accident alarm at that big plant that's nearby. The soft toot of the whistle and the rhythmic chimes were not intimidating at all. We ignored it. Never associating those sounds with the various scents that wafted overhead and made everyone take a break from their yardwork.
I remember the year was 1984. The clock wasn't striking 13, but Union Carbide was definitely in the news. Thousands of people in India had been mamed or killed. Union Carbide did this? How can something like this happen? You mean that place might actually be dangerous? I remember on TV seeing the greying bodies of brown people like us were heaped in piles along the roads and in open areas. Little babies and old people were screaming in pain. Women and men cried when people took their relatives' bodies away from them. Some of them had no eyes. Wow, we're lucky that nothing like that can happen here. (See http://www.cbgnetwork.de/2625.html )
What did Union Carbide actually do? A lot of my friends' dads worked there, and it's right next to our houses, but I don't know what they actually do. Someone brings a bright orange flyer by our family's duplex. It said "People Concerned" and there's a pneumonic device--"M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!" Everyone knows that song, but it was brought up so we'd remember the first three letters, "MIC". We found out that they make MIC at our Carbide plant, but that it was also what messed up all those people in India. That was the first time I ever got worried about the plant. There is something we should definitely be concerned about, but it's probably not going to ever cause us trouble.
There was this one time we were at a reunion at West Virginia State, the college campus that seperates my home from the plant's fenceline, for the most part. (Well, them and the rehabilitation center) There were a lot of my family and other people from Institute there. There was a barbecue, and chatting, and general fellowship. As usual, that funk wafted down over us. I remember going into one of the buildings to get away from the stink, and all of a sudden, a bunch of people just started vomiting. I didn't actually lose my lunch, but I sure wanted to. That was a horrible feeling. My eyes itched, and so were other people's. I remember a lot of people got sick and had to go to the hospital, but they didn't actually go to the hospital.. they took them to the Shawnee Park Clubhouse by ambulance. I saw my aunt K. Lyndall Ferguson on the front page of the newspaper with an oxygen mask on, laying on a stretcher. Did Carbide have an accident? (See: http://www.cbgnetwork.de/2623.html )
Some time later, people marched around with signs and held meetings and rallied the citizens. This went on for years. We became more aware of some of the crap that was happening around us. Like when this parking lot for chemical trucks would wash their truck tanks out and let the chemical runoff pour into my grandmother's yard. She complained and those men threatened her! "You wanna find out what happened to Hoffa?" We marched around with signs again. I'm not sure what happened with those people...
Some people in the community don't like our sign-marching. They like the money they make even more. They still can't fathom that the Great Provider (the plant, not God) would possibly be less than perfect. How could they possibly be the cause of the alarming number of cancer patients in the community. They'd NEVER make someone deal with chemical incidents without proper safety. Those people from Institute, they complain too much. I remember one of those people(who shall not be named for obvious reasons) came to the home of a faithful sign-marcher(who shall also remain unnamed for those same reasons) and said to her AND I QUOTE: "I'll be damned if I let the likes of YOU cause me to lose my job!"
This was not long after our complaining took us somewhere very dark. You see, we figured out the whistle and bell codes, once we learned that the plant doesn't like reporting the right stuff to the media and authorities. Yes, we learned this sad fact in the 1980's. We learned that the chimes would chime a certain number of times, and then be broken by a whistle. The numbers were in sets of three. From those numbers, we could determine if someone had an in-plant injury, or if there was a potential hazard to the community. When we'd hear gas release and/or smell something noxious, we could determine what section of the plant it was in. So there'd be an incident at the plant. We'd get sick. The plant would tell the media, "Oh, it was some harmless stink. No real chemicals got out, etc" but then our concerned citizens would counter with, "Actually we heard the alarm, and we know it was pesticide." Then 6 days later, there'd be a news report saying something like, "Actually, that smell wasn't harmless, it was a hazardous gas." Then we'd ask why they lied. This process happened many many times. Finally, they DISABLED the audible alarm system. Completely. Somewhere there exists a meeting that was broadcast on the news. I'm pretty sure Fox News recorded the whole thing. The plant manager said to us citizens, "Well, if you people want to drop lawsuits on us any time there's a leak, maybe we'll just have to stop telling you when we have one." As God is my witness, that man threatened us publically that way.
You know, I bet everyone thinks the days of sugar pills and snake oil had long been over. Hahaha, read more.
After a lot of complaining, we got an "Emergency Access Road". Supposedly, when we heard a certain emergency alarm, we'd go inside and turn on the TV, and they'd give us instructions on what to do and how to evacuate. But for some reason, the gates are always locked. (See http://www.peopleconcernedaboutmic.com/storage/Evacuation%20blocked.JPG )There was also a "Telephone Ringdown" system put into place where if something tragic were to happen at the plant, a bot or an operator would call everyone's phone and tell us what to do. I guess they forgot that the telephone companies didn't care about us either, and Institute's phone system was made up of remnants of those old party lines. (It's actually still like that--I've called 911 before and gotten Pizza Hut, Shawnee Hills or other residents..Multiple Times.) One time there was a leak of some kind, and they activated their high-tech wizardry. I think 1/3 of affected residents actually were called. There were complaints that Institute has a high amount of elderly and handicapped residents, and that they should do something for the people that can't drive themselves for an evactuation. So then they put these "Emergency Evacuation Pick-Up Points" all around Institute. Supposedly, "If you hear the signal, run out to that bus stop and you'll be picked up by someone from KRT(our public transportation system)". I am willing to bet you $5000 that if you call KRT and mention that, they're going to ask you what you're talking about or tell you you're crazy. But the signs are there. There's one on Washington Street @ Elm and @Dunbar. There were some around campus, too.
One time, we had an evactuation drill, and some confused bus driver was driving around..confused. There's a documentary called "Chemical Valley" by a group called Appalshop that shows this busdriver saying he wouldn't drive here during an emergency. All of this "protection" is actually propaganda. Whenever some accident would happen, they'd come up with a new "safety feature" that they would halfway install in order to keep residents from panicking, and appease the media and whoever was supposed to be watching over them. But whenever the news trucks would go away, they'd abandon whatever plan they had given us in an effort to be "good neighbors." Speaking of propaganda, had you ever seen that old war film "Duck and Cover" with the turtle? The one that says if you "Duck and Cover", you'll be okay when the bomb hits? We were given an obscenely similar mascot called "Wally Wiseguy" in the 90's. (See http://www.wally.org/ ) It was an anthropomorphic turtle that jumped in his shell during chemical emergencies. The only thing he did differently than his ancestor was turn on the news and wait for instructions. Wally was the mascot for the biggest load of crap that the plant has dumped on us. They call it "Shelter-In-Place". I'm sure you've read of residents being told to shelter-in-place during the August fiasco. Well, to be honest, it's really not going to amount to a hill of beans if something worse ever happens. The blast damaged peoples' homes. My uncle has a crack across his fireplace from the blast. My mom and other residents had their plumbing damaged, which cost thousands of dollars worth of related water and mold damages to the homes. Do you think you're going to be protected from chemicals if there's a big crack in your house?
Much like "Duck and Cover", that snake oil --Shelter-In-Place, and the Emergency Evacuation Pickup plan is meant to keep everyone calm and collected. Collected, that is, in neat collection points so the state can find our greying brown bodies in heaps for easy disposal, just like in Bhopal. We'll all be sealed in with our families at or near our addresses, so identifying us will be simple. This is a major reason I decided to move away from West Virginia. (See: http://sundaygazettemail.com/News/200808290015 )
Well, this collection of my thoughts has gone on..for quite some time. I could tell so much more. So, so, much more. Like about the time I walked through a green cloud and ended up hospitalized due to severe chest pains and unconciousness. Or those other times people got burned up and died at the plant. Or about all the diseased neighbors and my dead relatives. Or the gray "water" near the railroad tracks that mysteriously supports human weight on its surface. Or the other huge explosions that got overlooked. But the last thing I want to leave you with is my account of what happened in August.
I was in the area of Phoenix, Arizona on the night of August, 29, 2008. I got a call from my mother at around 8:15 PM Mountain Time, which equals 11:15 PM Eastern. She called and told me that the plant blew up, for real this time. She said they were in the process of fleeing the area and used a sidestreet to avoid being caught in the roadblock they were going to put up. She told me to call the National Response number and tell them that the Larvin Unit exploded and sent fireballs and a cloud into the air, as well as causing a shockwave that felt like an earthquake. (Due to fears, however, I will not discuss how she got that information.) That scared me so very badly.. I hung up and called the National Response number and relayed that information. National Response Center logged my call at 11:20. I posted a message on the internet telling people to PLEASE call for help for Institute. When I called the National Response Center, I told them what happened, and they kept saying that they didn't have any calls from anyone else. I told them that they had to send everything they had to Institute, WV because the truth won't get out. I said they needed to evacuate everyone from the area before the pesticide cloud fell, or something else happened. They still seemed unsure, but took down what I had to say. I was having phone trouble, so I ended up calling three times. All I can remember was begging them to please send anyone--even if it was military because our people in WV wouldn't be able to help and that the plant would try to lie about what was happening. I called CNN, and they didn't seem to take me seriously. It was like, they didn't believe me because I wasn't some authority figure, and probably because I was calling from Arizona. I told them to please try to get help and find out the truth. They assured me that their experts were working on finding out what actually happened. I told them that I KNEW what was happening, and that they probably wouldn't find out anything by calling WV. I told them that I knew what chemical tank exploded, what time, and where. But they pretty much hung up on me. The best part of this story is when the EPA called me on the phone. It would have been about midnight in WV. A man from the EPA drove to Institute to find out what was going on. He said it was obvious something happened, but he couldn't get any information from anyone. He asked me why I called National Response with information on the unit that exploded in the plant before the plant did. I told him it was because that's how it always happens. Two hours later, they MIGHT tell you something.(Funny enough, two hours later, the plant admitted there was a problem) The next day, Ken Ward called me for an interview, and I told him the same thing. It's the same old same old. They tell us what they want to tell us. They hide the truth until someone catches them. (See: http://wvgazette.com/latest/200809040388?page=1&build=cache Note: if you listen to the MP3 they have linked at the beginning of the article, your blood will boil)
Now, I'm no psychic, but I will now predict the future. After these investigations are over, they will have found an obscene number of violations. We will never find out all of them because they'll weasel their way out of talking somehow. We will find out that there were more chemicals involved than first thought. We will find out that the danger was always greater than they let on. Please, if you are someone reading this that can help us, you will prevent the rest happening.. the part where they give us another fake safety plan, they pay someone off to shut us up, they assure everyone they're going to fix the damage and the problems and then they don't. But mainly, please prevent the part where they have another horrible accident that kills or mames an entire community. It could be Institute, but it could be anywhere else. I am scared to see what else is being hidden from us.
I am sending this message to Alison Cassidy, People Concerned About MIC, CBG Network, and various places on the internet. I will attempt to send this to various government people as well. I want to send this to anyone that will listen, or wants to hear my story. If you would like me to tell you more, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org . I know this was long, but thank you for reading this to the end.
Katherine D. Davis,
A Concerned Institute Native
(linkable version at http://docs.google.com/View?docID=dg7fh3km_22dx79b3dw&revision=_latest )