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April Pierson-Keating planned this trip.

For years, April has been running tours like this—teaching West Virginians about the ways out-of-state industry executives have been profiting off of our land, water, and health. Before she died, April organized this trip for members of our Water Can’t Wait team—of which she was a vocal member. We thought about canceling the trip. But she would not have approved.

In Harrison, we saw wellpads that were literally a stone’s throw from Wilsonburg Elementary school. In Doddridge and Ritchie, we saw toxic landfills and pipeline facilities tucked away from public view. We took samples from a stream made lifeless from acid mine drainage. We heard stories about the brutal, unsafe conditions for gas and pipeline workers.

Kevin Campbell is a longtime compadre of April’s and our driver for the day. He also used to work in natural gas. “I quit working in the industry, because I couldn’t take doing illegal shit everyday.” Kevin described long shifts, ignored regulations, and supervisors who looked the other way. Teaming up with April provided an opportunity to fight back. “She was the healthiest person I ever met, and the strongest… the last phone call she ever made was for this campaign.”

We ended our day at the majestic Valley Falls State Park in Marion (with our 129th Town Hall) and the first to take place at water’s edge. We were reminded of the joy and life that water brings. We got to imagine a state where our water is the reason why people move here, not the reason why people get sick. 

Water is the most precious resource in the world. Economic development and good jobs are not at odds with safe water; they are dependent on it. This fight won’t be easy, and we can’t wait for someone else to fight for it. With April gone, we each carry a heavier burden. Our future depends on our ability to do so. 

Our heartfelt thanks to Selah Raines for stepping in to bring this to fruition, by designing the stops she knew April would want us to see. We are honored to have such amazing water warriors inspired by, and continuing, April’s work.

Pitch in by joining the WV Can’t Wait movement.

See some of our plans to address these issues here: