Quote IconThe Elk River branch of the state’s largest water utility, West Virginia American Water, has gained up to 100,000 customers since the mid-2000s, according to the estimate of environmental consultant Rob Goodwin. That’s because mountain top removal and the disposal of coal mining waste (buried underground in a muddy form called slurry) have contaminated local water sources throughout the state’s southern and central regions, driving more and more West Virginians to board up their wells and lay pipe to the Elk River.

The Elk River chemical spill is so destructive because Elk River was one of the last clean water supplies in the state.