In January of 2014, more than a quarter million residents in a nine-county region of West Virginia, including the state capitol and largest city, Charleston, found their water supply contaminated by a chemical used to clean coal. Immediately officials warned residents not to use the water for drinking, cooking, bathing or ways that would lead to physical contact with people or pets. Five days later, officials notified residents that, if they flushed their water systems, they could again use their tap water. Rumors spread that the flushing process would release chemicals into the air that would make them sick, so the effects for residents lingered. And many residents were worried that the close relationship between the coal industry and civic officials might have led to a premature resolution to the crisis that could endanger the citizenry. This book is an ethnography of the crisis in that it is a compilation of grass-roots reactions and stories. It is collaborative in that the three editors and the other contributors to essays in this book reveal the reactions of more than fifty people impacted by the crisis. “A great example of a multiauthored and intersubjective ethnography of toxic suffering, this book is a model for future disaster ethnographies.” - Peter Little. “A unique, moving, and highly readable account of community reactions to a technological disaster. Authors weave together powerful and highly personal narratives that reveal the tensions of coping with ongoing environmental uncertainty. With a novel, collaborative approach, they make meaningful connections between the experiences of local residents and the systems and institutions that produce and perpetuate disasters and their aftermaths. Readers of all stripes will find it as enlightening as it is poignant.” - Melissa Checker. The three editors are Luke Eric Lassiter, Brian A. Hoey, and Elizabeth Campbell. Lassitere is a professor of humanities and anthropology at Marshall University; Hoey also teaches anthropology at Marshall, and Campbell is chair of the department of curriculum and instruction at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2020. 255 pages with an Index, maps, and photos. Trade paperback.