West Virginia students reveal how a chemical spill affected their community

Richwood High School | Richwood, WV
May 20, 2015

After a spill spread toxic chemicals in West Virginia’s water supply, the state passed a law to regulate state industries and prevent another disaster. But the law has faced political roadblocks, raising questions about the role of state regulations in protecting the environment. Students at Richwood High School in West Virginia reported on the importance of water quality in their community and what other regions can learn from the incident.

Kendra Lipps, the assistant editor on the report, said that she and her peers were inspired to cover the issue after learning about water quality in an environment class. “We just thought it would be interesting to tie what we learned in that class [into] our journalism class and what was going on in the state,” she said.

As students affected by the spill, the class had a unique outlook on the issue but still reported it fairly and accurately, she said. “I think it’s important to remain unbiased about who caused the problem but everyone thinks it’s important to keep our water safe and healthy,” she said.

Student Chelsie Hagy said that she was excited to report on a topic that is significant to so many people in her state. “I found it interesting that this is affecting so many people. It’s not just Charleston that it’s affecting. It’s affecting millions of people,” she said.

By reporting on environmental issues, student journalists can help raise awareness about safety and how to improve practices, Tristan Legg, who worked on the report, said. “It’s always a good topic to bring up so people can be aware of what can happen…and what we can do to help,” he said.

This video was produced with mentor support from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.