In January 2014, a chemical used to clean coal spilled into the Elk River, which runs through the middle of West Virginia, contaminating the state's primary water supply. Suddenly, 300,000 people were left without water for drinking, washing, or bathing.
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While the crisis made national headlines, the spill was not an isolated incident.
Coal mining has been poisoning rural West Virginia residents' water for years with little attention paid to various accidents and their consequences. After all, this is one of the poorest regions of the country, and it is economically dependent on a single extractive industry.
The people of West Virginia are both wedded to coal and at its mercy, and the industry’s deep pockets regularly influence politicians to fight against environmental regulation that could benefit the health of their constituents.
Fault Lines heads to coal country to see how West Virginia's main industry impacts its most precious resource.