How WVPB responded to the West Virginia chemical spill
Members of the Nitro Volunteer Fire Department distribute water to local residents impacted by the chemical spill on Saturday. Photo credit: Michael Switzer/AP

Members of the Nitro Volunteer Fire Department distribute water to local residents impacted by the chemical spill on Saturday.               Photo credit: Michael Switzer/AP

After a chemical spill contaminated West Virginia drinking water, West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) moved to the front line to keep local residents safe and informed.

Real Time Updates and Support on the Chemical Spill

From the beginning of the state water emergency, WVPB has delivered real time news coverage and resources on the network’s television and radio stations, on their Twitter and Facebook accounts, and their website. Within hours of the crisis, residents could easily access a list of water distribution centers, a fact sheet about the chemical spill, and reports from water experts and public officials. As the crisis continues, WVPB provides residents with the most up to date information to help them make educated decisions about using local tap water. The station has also developed a free video and lesson plan to help West Virginia middle and high school teachers talk about the chemical spill in the classroom.

Telling West Virginia’s Story

From in-depth reports on what’s actually in the water to implications on current and future utility bills, telling West Virginia’s story and the local impact of the chemical spill has been the focus of WVPB’s coverage. WVPB’s public radio morning show, West Virginia Morning, has and continues to provide many different perspectives on the emergency. The network also aired a special newscast to clarify unanswered questions about the spill.

Connecting Public Officials with Citizens

West Virginia Public Broadcasting has connected public officials with residents affected by the spill. The network’s television show that reports on the West Virginia Legislature, Legislature Today, had an exclusive interview with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin shortly after the chemical spill. The network also helped live stream the Governor’s press conference as well as the Legislature’s hearings and meetings on the chemical spill. WVPB has been the leading communicator on local, state and federal responses to address the chemical spill.

Bringing the Community Together

To thank community members involved in the relief effort, the station offered free tickets to their public radio music program, Mountain Stage. Community members were treated to an evening of free music to take their mind off the chemical leak. They enjoyed performances by soul and R&B singer Bettye LaVette, Israeli superstar David Broza, family-based North Carolina quartet Matrimony, modern Irish singer/songwriter Declan O’Rourke and Noah Gundersen from Seattle, Washington. Attendees were also encouraged to donate to nonprofit groups that are helping people hurt by the chemical leak.

WVPB’s efforts have been recognized both nationally and locally. WVPB reporter Ashton Marra appeared on several national media outlets to discuss the chemical spill. Locally, residents have shown their thanks for WVPB’s work. A recent Current article describes a heartwarming story about a woman waiting outside the station, just two days after the spill, to thank WVPB for its coverage.

WVPB’s recent coverage of the chemical spill shows what local public media is all about. It’s about local stations run by community members, that work to provide important news coverage and public safety information to serve their community everyday, especially in times of crisis.

WVPB reporter Ashton Marra providing an update on State officials reactions to the West Virginia chemical spill on PBS NewsHour. Video source: PBS NewsHour