Skip to main content
I’m Afraid of That Water: A Collaborative Ethnography of a West Virginia Water Crisis
  • Luke E Lassiter, Marshall University
  • Brian A. Hoey, Marshall University
  • Elizabeth Campbell, Appalachian State University
On January 9, 2014, residents across Charleston, West Virginia, awoke to an unusual licorice smell in the air and a similar taste in the public drinking water. That evening residents were informed the tap water in tens of thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses, and dozens of schools and hospitals—the water made available to as many as 300,000 citizens in a nine-county region—had been contaminated with a chemical used for cleaning crushed coal. This book tells a particular set of stories about that chemical spill and its aftermath, an unfolding water crisis that would lead to months, even years, of fear and distrust. It is both oral history and collaborative ethnography, jointly conceptualized, researched, and written by people—more than fifty in all—across various positions in academia and local communities. I’m Afraid of That Water foregrounds the ongoing concerns of West Virginians (and people in comparable situations in places like Flint, Michigan) confronted by the problem of contamination, where thresholds for official safety may be crossed, but a genuine return to normality is elusive.
  • collaborative ethnography,
  • oral history,
  • disaster studies,
  • water crisis,
  • contamination experience,
  • place,
  • west virginia,
  • water
Publication Date
March, 2020
West Virginia University Press
Publisher Statement
Book is available for ordering here:
Citation Information
Luke Eric Lassiter, Brian A. Hoey, Elizabeth Campbell. (2020). I’m Afraid of That Water: A Collaborative Ethnography of a West Virginia Water Crisis. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press.