Coalfield county organizes for clean water

Tap water from a Martin County residence in Warfield in 2016. Gary Ball, editor of the Mountain Citizen, a newspaper that exposes the water crisis in Martin County, Kentucky, writes, “Former water board chairman Bill Harvey blamed the Mountain Citizen for ‘alarming’ stories about water quality and service and said 90 percent of customers were pleased with service. Would you agree?”


Editor’s note: Martin County, Kentucky residents can’t count on getting water daily from their taps. And when the water does flow, people don’t dare drink it. Known as the only place in America where almost no one drinks from their tap, their bills come with warnings that their water could increase the risk of cancer. Many say family members have died from cancer. Poor management over the decades contributes to the ongoing crisis in this coalfield county (where 40% are living in poverty). State agencies have barely intervened, and public officials have not spoken out. People are losing trust in government and are actively organizing for change. The quotes below are printed with permission from members of the Martin County Water Warriors Facebook community. — The People’s Tribune

“My son ran a fever over 100. I turned on the water to bathe my children and try to get his temperature down. I began filling the tub, put my 18-month-old twins in. After a few minutes, I noticed the water had a blue tint to it. I jerked my babies out so fast, not knowing what on earth was in our water to make it blue. It’s so sad we have to worry about what kind of shape our water is in to bathe our children. I don’t know what kind of chemical this could be, but I wonder, how can this be safe? — Tasha Osborne

“Water is cut off every night. This is failure on the water district and county leaders. When you turn on cold water and it comes out white with steam coming off it something is wrong. Most of my family has died of cancer. We need someone without local connections to come and help us. Our county judge hasn’t even made a statement. — Mac McCoy

“It’s like they just don’t give a shit that over half the county has been without water for close to a month! Let’s call them on their blatant lies and misuse of the public’s trust! Everyone send in or call their objection to the rate hike [of almost 50%]. If it’s going to take ten years to fix this water crisis ok we will give you your ten years but you WILL NOT GET A RATE HIKE FOR THOSE TEN YEARS! How’s that work for y’all at Martin County Water Department? —Pamela Blevins

“It started with the water being shut off on “our side of the hill.” This was not fair to us. To our children. To our grandparent and parents. This was not fair to our school. It was unable to be cleaned, in the middle of flu season. We stood up. Inez [Kentucky] is also feeling the pain with us. They have the same water we do. They have posted pictures of water over there. We have gotten to news stations. People are starting to verbally ask questions. They say they drink their water. We know that’s a lie. Our water has been undrinkable for many years. Right now we need to drop the “other side of the hill” saying and come together as one. We need to insure our future generation and our generation has clean water to drink. We need safe water.” — Amanda Fields


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