Freedom Industries chief restructuring officer Mark Welch explains the lower trench — the area between Freedom’s tanks and the river, where a chemical called MCHM spilled into the Elk River in January.


Black plastic, a pump and riprap are intended to keep overflow from entering the Elk River in the lower trench at Freedom Industries.


 Containment booms float in the Elk River below the lower trench at Freedom Industries.


A view of tanks 396 and 397, two of three tanks that housed the coal processing chemical MCHM at Freedom Industries.


Whitewater guides prepare to head out to an annual industry cleanup on the New River from Glade Creek to Grandview Sandbar.


Melanie Seiler, of Adventures on the Gorge and the American Canoe Association, washes mud out of a tire found in the New River.


Simon Environmental spent several days from July through November cleaning and decontaminating the apartment at 6231/2 Simms St. on Charleston’s West Side.


A crew from Simon Environmental piles bags of contaminated items in a dump truck.


The apartment at 6231/2 Simms St. has been condemned since a meth lab was found there in June.


James Gross lives with his brother in the first-floor apartment at 6231/2 Simms St. He said he’d like to move, but has no place else to go.

Because I am a writer–a journalist–I often think about what I cover. Is this accurate? Am I making assumptions in my coverage? Have I recorded all necessary voices for a story? Is the “necessary voice” I identified accurate? It can be a stressful line to walk as I turn in a story by (sometimes a little past) deadline.

I stumbled upon a TED Talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie while looking for the one that Beyonce samples in “***Flawless.” Yes, you may roll your eyes. It’s fine.

In this talk, Adichie addresses “the single story” and how it can skew perceptions and degrade a people. She discusses this as it relates to literature, but I think it can be extended to nonfiction, too. Sometimes we read or watch or hear media reports that seem to assume or create harmful perceptions That’s something I’ve tried to avoid in my coverage–writing narratives that don’t fairly or accurately represent people, places, situations. I’m not always certain I do a good job of that, but I think that’s ultimately why I’m working in journalism, which was not my plan when I graduated from college. I don’t really want to tell other people’s stories, though that seems to be my main function right now. I’d rather help create or provide space for those stories.

I love programs/podcasts like Death, Sex & Money from WNYC, where host Anna Sale creates a safe space to discuss those three topics in a raw way. She’s speaking with “everyday” people. She’s speaking with politicians. She’s speaking with musicians and actors. What’s great about this podcast is that it allows for those people to exist beyond what The World has defined them as. Jane Fonda is a celebrity and interviews primarily focus on her career and fame. But in her interview (one of my favorites) Fonda is allowed to be human.

Here’s that TED Talk:

Christina and I were connected with one another through a mutual friend, and boy am I glad.

C and John were married in a beautiful mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in downtown Charleston, W.Va. The lighting was wonderful during the ceremony, and Sacred Heart’s gardens in front of the church and across the street made for some beautiful images.

We headed across the river to Kanawha City for wedding party photos and portraits. Lucky for us, a man was willing to let us use his yard right along the riverbank for some really beautiful shots.

Bride and groom and their guests celebrated well into the evening on the pavilion at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.

Here are some images:
Preview1 Preview2 Preview3 Preview4 Previews5

It’s baby season. Again.
The second round of buns in ovens is upon my various social circles, so I’ve been traveling a lot to celebrate with moms-to-be and sometimes dads, too.

This means seeing my closest friend, all of whom are finding their ways in the world. Many people are leaving Shepherdstown–the place where we lived, studied, created, found each other and started to find ourselves. I’m so proud.

Here are some images:







(Liz did this. I’ve been letting go of my camera more lately. More reason to keep it up.)


I recently had to travel to Davis, W.Va., for work (oh, darn.) and decided to make a short weekend of it.
After a long day of listening and writing, this hangry vegetarian stopped in Thomas at The Purple Fiddle–a great restaurant, music venue and hostel–to grab a bite. The falafel sandwich is wonderful, so be kind to yourself and order it if you’re ever there.
I also made a stop at TipTop, a coffee shop with food and spirits that came highly recommended by some of my coworkers. TipTop is distantly related to Shepherdstown’s own HypnoCoffee, and had a brew just as bangin’.

Here are some images:



This Fiddle cat is always ready for love from visitors.

Nikki Talley, a singer-songwriter from Asheville, N.C.

The Mulligan Brothers, from Mobile, Ala.


Rebecca, killer artist and barista



Oh, and First Aid Kit has a new album out. Peep this vid:

Last year, my Gazette colleagues and I put together a report on the impact of methamphetamine production in West Virginia, particularly Kanawha County and the surrounding areas. Since then the stories–which appeared over the course of two days in the Gazette–have been recognized by numerous organizations. “The Meth Menace”–part 1 and part 2–won a National Headliners award and was a finalist of an Investigative Reporters & Editors award. Reporters Eric Eyre and David Gutman were given a first place Green Eyeshade award for their investigation.

Here are some images, published and unpublished, I took for the report:

Simms13The one-bedroom apartment at 623 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston, which sits behind two homes on the city’s West Side, was condemned after a meth lab was found there last June.

Simms6An employee at Simon Environmental pulls a garbage bag through a window at 623 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston. Because methamphetamine labs create hazardous conditions, the entire contents of a meth-positive space must be disposed of.

Inn2A car seat is turned over outside Room 217 at the Economy Inn in Nitro. An 18-month-old boy was found in the room where officers arrested two women for cooking meth last November.

KCSO4Sgt. L.S. Dietz — a Kanawha County meth lab technician for nine years — said there’s nothing that smells like meth. “It’s just a unique odor.”

Simms2Alan McClanahan, of Simon Environmental, picks up a bag of contaminated trash from 623 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston.

Simms9Simon Environmental spent several days from July through November cleaning and decontaminating the apartment at 6231/2 Simms St. on Charleston’s West Side.

Inn3Rooms were condemned at the Economy Inn in Nitro after two women were arrested for cooking meth in November.

KCSO5“The officers that are there are automatically exposed to the chemicals that are there,” said Sgt. Sean Snuffer of deputy response to meth tips.


Just one truck full of several of remnants from 632 1/2 Simms St. in Charleston. Clandestine lab cleanup crews take the refuse from meth-positive homes to landfills in the area.


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