“What we do today will affect our water quality for centuries.” - Mark Sowers, Floyd dairy farmer.
-The following first appeared in The Floyd Press on September 18, 2005
A scientist, a poet, musicians, biologists and farmers were all part of a Sunday afternoon presentation on the future of Floyd County water. Held at the Floyd EcoVillage, the event featured the premiere showing of “To the Last Drop: Floyd’s Water Future,” an educational and inspirational film that was set in Floyd and focused on Floyd residents talking about water as a valuable and vulnerable resource.
Dubbed as a locally grown film, the documentary was created by Virginia Tech videographers, Grazia Apolinares and Chris Risch. The Floyd cast included Fred First, an author and biologist; Jeff Walker, a soil scientist; Lydeana Martin, Floyd’s Community and Economic Development Director; Jane Cundiff, a Radford University biology professor; dairy farmers Mark Grimm and Mark Sowers; vegetable farmer Dennis Dove, Jack Wall of the Floyd EcoVillage and Woody Crenshaw of Riverstone Farm and the Floyd Country Store. John Gannon, a hydrologist who worked with a committee of Floyd citizens on a local Source Water Protection Plan in 2010, was also in the film.
“One thing we can all agree on is that we all love this land,” said event emcee Jane Cunduff in her welcoming remarks. She commented on the great turnout, as volunteers brought in more chairs to accommodate the full house crowd.
The program opened with song. Some audience members sang along as songwriters Michael Kovick, Kari Kovick and Erika Joy performed “Save the Water” and added “pipeline out” to the chorus, referring to the controversial natural gas pipeline that has recently been proposed to come through Floyd.
Bernie Coveney, who provided the soundtrack for the film (which was produced before the pipeline was proposed), performed a song that he said was inspired by his son catching his first fish. “If we lose it, we’re in trouble. We might not get it back,” he said about the county’s water supply.
Through the words of the film’s participants and event speakers, audience members learned that because of Floyd’s geological landscape its water source is vulnerable to contamination and drought. With no underground aquifers of collected rainwater, Floyd’s water source comes from rain that has collected in fractured rock, providing only small reserves and a relatively short time for filtering. Floyd Press newspaper clippings about wells drying up during the drought of 1998 to 2002 were shown in the film.
A timed drip irrigation system for watering crops, malfunctioning sewage systems as a cause of contamination, mountain terrain run off, how many gallons of water a cow drinks a day and the age of spring water were some of the topics that were touched on.
Jennifer Greene spoke in the film about another kind of watershed in Floyd. “It’s a watershed from within the humanity,” said the Water Research Institute director who presented “Seeing Water with New Eyes” workshops in Floyd last year. John Gannon suggested having people in place to monitor water concerns, saying, “There’s no one going to be interested in Floyd water but the people who live here.” The sweet lingering of Coveney’s guitar highlighted the film participant’s smiling faces that were shown against the backdrop of Floyd creeks, wetlands, forests and farms at the film’s conclusion.
Following the film, Jane Cundiff talked about fracking, the hydraulic process of getting natural gas out of the ground. She stated that, although natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, the fracking process is not clean. “They take millions of gallons of fresh water and put a lot of nasty chemicals in it, acids that dissolve rock. Then they push it deep down into the earth and, under very high pressure, split open the rock underneath the earth to release the gas.”
Cundiff described the 300 mile, 42 inch pipeline that is proposed to come through Floyd from West Virginia, saying that it will be carrying high pressure hot methane gas and will need about a 100 foot wide clearance. She noted that people around the world are getting together against fracking (which is linked to increased earthquakes) and that it’s been reported that solar energy could be cheaper than natural gas in a span of about 10 years.
“About 95% of Floyd households are served by private water, wells and springs,” said Lydeana Martin in her address to the crowd. She noted that in the most recent Comprehensive Plan survey citizens responded that taking care of water, farms and forests was their biggest concern. She stated that there are currently no restrictions on what your neighbor can do on their property that might directly affect your water, other than setting up a landfill.
Mara Robbins, from Citizens for Preserving Floyd County (CPFC), a newly re-formed environmental advocacy group, gave an update on the proposed pipeline through Floyd. Commenting on how the arts in Floyd can be a forum for the expression of environmental protections, Robbins, a poet, shared a new poem, titled Deep River. “You’ve heard a lot from my head. This is what’s coming from my heart,” she said.
Robbins referred an audience member’s question about eminent domain to a CPFC October 14th educational outreach meeting at the high school (7:00 p.m). It will feature a lawyer who specializes in eminent domain law, she said.
After another audience member spoke about the pollution of holding ponds for fracking solution and the corruption by money in government, Robbins asked for a round of applause for local government, noting that Floyd’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution calling for the halt of pipeline surveying and a meeting with the companies involved. The resolution led to communication between the board and EQT, one of the companies proposing the pipeline. A public meeting in which two EQT managing partners will be in attendance has been proposed for October 28th.
Robbins said that citizens probably won’t get to speak at the meeting. “But we can show who we are and how we feel,” she said. She announced a sign making gathering at the Floyd Artisan Market on Fridays leading up to the meeting date.
Floyd’s mountain headwaters affect lots of people outside of Floyd, Jane Cundiff reminded the crowd, saying that Floyd water streams into the Little River, Dan River, Roanoke River and others. She suggested that people sign the “no pipeline” petitions that were located in the EcoVillage lobby and that they learn how to take care of the water on their own property. Applause broke out when she concluded, “We hope … no … we know, we can stop this pipeline.” – Colleen Redman