SOUND-RICH FEATURES

A complete archive of clips is available at KSTK.org and WVpublic.org

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Thousands of homes in Clarksburg have received water filtration pitchers and notices in the past few months. The notice lets residents know their drinking water is flowing through lead pipes.

Millions of Americans get their water through lead service lines. The alarm sounded in Clarksburg when three children in town tested positive for elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Tommy Dodd stood on his porch reading his notice. The houses on his street were built in the early 1900s. He figured this notice might be coming.

“The only thing we’ve used our water for in the last three or four months was just to wash our clothes, take a shower in,” Dodd said. “I don't even think it was a great idea to use it to rinse off our toothbrushes. But we did that.”

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Huntington High senior Mani Frieson sat patiently in the bleachers of his school gym before returning to class. He got his shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and waited 15 minutes to be sure he had no adverse reactions.

“I just see that's like a really, really great, great step towards a better future,” he said.

When more than a dozen positive cases were reported at Huntington High this month, classmates in close contact to those infected had to quarantine -- including the entire boys basketball team.

But the team returned just in time to face their closest rival, Cabell Midland High School, on their opponents’ court.

“We didn't know if we were gonna have a season at the beginning,” said Ty Holmes, the head coach for Huntington High. “So the guys are pretty excited to even get out there and just even play basketball.”

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Cabin Creek claims the legacy of the mine wars and labor struggles in the early 1900s. More than a century later, doctors, nurses, and social workers still fight for miners at the Cabin Creek Health Clinic, built in the 1970s as an outgrowth of a miner-led movement to recognize the existence of this occupational disease.

Every few weeks, a handful of former miners get tested at the clinic for signs of black lung.

One patient, 74-year-old Roger DeWeese, sits inside a “body box.” It is a clear tube in the shape of a telephone-booth that gauges how much air he inhales and exhales. It’s a tight fit for DeWeese. He’s 6-foot-1.

“It's like sandpaper or sand. It just keeps moving in your lung. And that keeps getting worse and worse,” he said.

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One of the best shooters on Wrangell’s basketball team doesn’t get a lot of court time. One senior is sidelined by a congenital heart condition. But that doesn’t keep him from being front and center of the action.

Voltz studies the game. He knows all the team plays. And he’s not afraid to coach his peers when he sees a way he can help.

“Sometimes watching the kids maybe do something I could do better or watching them not put any effort in it,” he says.

After four years, Voltz got the chance to prove if he could really do it better.  In a game against the Haines Glacier Bears, Voltz got to don the uniform and be part of the starting lineup.  

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A tenth of the moose taken last season by hunters in Wrangell, Petersburg and Kake ended up being confiscated by authorities. It could be for a number of reasons, but these Southeast Alaska communities are making sure none of the meat goes to waste. 

On a Friday in December, a small crew of hunters are moving hundreds of pounds of moose meat from the public cold storage freezer into Chris Guggenbickler’s truck.

It’s his job to deliver more than 400 packages of roast and burger to individuals and organizations in town. 

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For the second year in a row there will be no king salmon derby in Wrangell. For 30 days, everyone tried to catch the biggest king salmon for a shot at the $6000 cash prize, and the glory. While most agree that protecting the the run up of the nearby Stikine River is critical, the absence of the derby nevertheless has left a king salmon-sized hole in some hearts.

“Right now, Saturday, it’d be the second week of the derby. As flat calm as it is, there’d be so many boats right now, coming and going,” former-derby organizer Shawn Curley says. “Instead no one’s out fishing at all, just that blue heron, he’s fishing.”

 

IN-DEPTH REPORTING

A complete archive of clips is available at KSTK.org and WVpublic.org

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For those struggling with addiction, one way to get on the road to recovery is to enter a sober-living home. There, residents should have the structure and support to change their lives. But not all homes can promise that, and there has been no formal process to differentiate good and bad operators.

“‘Flop houses’ they’re called. Well, we don't have a flop house. We have more structure than most people have in their families,” said Patrice Pooler who runs the Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home for those in the early stages of recovery.

In 2019, the legislature unanimously passed a law that would for the first time set standards for providers.


“I believe everyone that gets into recovery housing has a good heart and wants to help people, but I think some of them lack the structure that's needed to keep people safe and keep people sober,” Pooler said. 

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Gov. Jim Justice’s COVID-19 sweepstakes has captured the attention of many in and outside of West Virginia. That is in part thanks to the campaign’s arguably adorable mascot: Babydog.

The state’s vaccine lottery, and the governor’s English bulldog, have been featured in national news outlets, merchandise, and a song.

Since Gov. Jim Justice announced the lottery in late May, vaccinations have steadily declined. About 2,500 people a day got newly vaccinated in the few days before Justice’s announcement. Now, about six weeks later, that number has fallen 70 percent, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Resources.

Out of all 50 states, West Virginia ranks 40th in percent of population fully vaccinated at almost 40 percent.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent one month in Kanawha County this summer to investigate the local HIV outbreak. 

Over four weeks, the CDC analyzed medical records and spoke with local health and social service providers at the frontlines of the outbreak. It also interviewed 26 people who have HIV or are at risk of contracting the virus. This includes people who use IV drugs and are often homeless, which represent most new HIV diagnoses.

“It's clear from this report, we do not have the services in place to prevent these infections, diagnose them, and treat them,” said Robin Pollini, an infectious disease expert at WVU specializing in IV drug use.

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Biologists in Southeast Alaska are racing to examine a wave of whale carcasses to try and find what’s killing gray whales up and down the Pacific Coast. Nearly 170 have been reported, triggering NOAA Fisheries to launch an investigation.

When a dead whale was reported floating near Wrangell, the troops had to rally. U.S. Forest Service workers found the carcass on this remote beach and tied it to trees so it wouldn’t float away.

“It is sad to see but it is also an amazing opportunity to be part of this team and be part of this phenomenon,” says NOAA Fisheries Veterinarian Kate Savage.

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Mariners in distress are without a decades-old means of contacting the Coast Guard in much of coastal Alaska. The federal search and rescue agency says its VHF signal is down, making communication on Channel 16 unreliable. The issue had been going on all summer and there’s no solution in sight.

“VHF radios have been for decades the primary go-to source to get a hold of the Coast Guard,” said Jerry Dzugan, the director of the Alaska Marine Education Safety Association in Sitka. “That’s what we’ve taught everyone in our classes for decades, so what they’re saying is ‘Well, you’re going to have these other things instead,’ and that’s unacceptable.”

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Domestic violence exists everywhere in Alaska, but many small communities have no designated shelter.

The island community for decades has built an informal network of safe homes instead. These are the personal homes of folks, mostly church-goers, willing to put up a survivor for a night or two.

“So there’s other resources that can become available if needed, but they’re not advertised resources," says Jessica Whitaker. She’s a part of BRAVE, Wrangell’s fledgling domestic violence support network. 

"If people were to know where these safe homes are, then that kind of defeats the purpose of them being safe homes,” Whitaker says.

 

VIDEO

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Every legislative session WVPB produces the TV program The Legislature Today. In 2022, lawmakers proposed a cap on insulin and medical devices for diabetics. 
Mindy Salango is a mom living in Morgantown. She said diabetes dictates everything she does in a day.
“It just really kind of ate at me the other day that my body is never going to function properly, and that I always have to fight and stay on top of it to stay alive,” Salango said.

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KSTK spent the celebration documenting Randy Oliver’s last logging show. The event is named after Randy’s dad, Chuck Oliver, who started the event in 1975. The father-son duo ran the event for years to add some showmanship and competition to the holiday. Chuck passed away this year in March, and Randy is retiring from the event. But the show will go on. Randy is passing all the axes, chainsaws and “misery whips” down to the next generation.

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As part of KSTK’s video series on this year’s celebration, we spent some time with Darian Gerald. She comes from a long line of women who organize events for the holiday. She’s doing the same.

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As part of KSTK’s video series on this year’s celebration, we spent some time with Jeff and Kay Jabusch. Their family has been building floats for the annual parade for 40 years.