People dealing with the water chemical contamination problem in West Virginia are getting some relief Wednesday thanks to a Charlottesville nonprofit.
Last week, a tank belonging to a company called Freedom Industries leaked a foaming agent into the Elk River, contaminating water in and around the capital city of Charleston and affecting 300,000 people.
The effort out of Charlottesville began with one woman's post on Facebook and ended with a truckload of water. When Brianna Litman heard about the disaster in West Virginia, she posted to Facebook her plan to fill her car with water and head over to the affected area.
Word got around to a small nonprofit called Catalyst Productions in Charlottesville. That's when director Ian Babcock decided to make the effort a little broader. When Babcock heard about Litman's idea, he put word out to his network on Facebook, and support poured in.
"The instantaneous reaction online was significant enough that we really felt that we could move forward with pushing some things,” said Babcock.
Babcock then started looking for corporate partners. The first to sign on was Whole Foods.
"My boss Kristen went ahead and contacted the regional warehouse and got them with Catalyst so at least there'll be some relief going on for people who have not had showers, who have not had clean water,” said Kara Dawson, demo specialist at Whole Foods.
Babcock organized drop-off points at several community centers in parts of West Virginia that hadn't yet seen relief.
"We wanted to find a way to get safely and meaningfully in a cohesive way get some water out on a block-by-block, street-by-street level,” said Babcock.
Then Whole Foods loaded up 22 tons of fresh water onto a tractor-trailer, which went out just Tuesday night with the first part of the shipment.
"The place we delivered the water this morning had received no donations thus far," said Babcock.
Several area schools and businesses are pledging support for the program, dubbed Operation FreeFlow. Babcock says he hopes the support keeps coming because, even though the situation's improving, it will still take a long time to resolve.
"This is going to need to be a long-term relief effort. There is going to be a drastic need for resources consistently throughout the next couple weeks," he said.
If you would like to take part in the relief effort, there are several drop-off points around the area to take bottled water and food, including Jack Jouett Middle School, Red Hill Elementary School, Kohr Brothers Ice Cream, and Miller's on the downtown mall.
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