A crisis in Kentucky shows the high cost of clean drinking water

Photo: Junior Hunt, left, and Bobby Fletcher pick up donated water in Huntleyville, Ky., to share with Martin County residents. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

April 16 2019 LOVELY, Ky. — When the well water here turned brown and started tasting salty, Heather Blevins’s parents hooked their property on Dead Man’s Curve into the municipal supply. It seemed like a blessing until new hazards emerged: Today, Blevins says, the tap water smells of bleach, occasionally takes on a urine-colored tinge, and leaves her 7- and 8-year-old children itching every time they take a bath.

“The way the water is now, I’d rather have well water,” said Blevins, 44, who keeps a constant eye on the county water district’s Facebook page to watch for pipe breaks and boil-water advisories. Blevins, who says her water rates rocketed recently from $19 to almost $40 a month, sets aside money from her $980 Social Security check for bottled drinking water and chemical-free baby wipes to keep her allergy-prone children clean.

“It shouldn’t be like that,” she said.

It’s been “like that” for decades here in Martin County, as it has in other pockmarked parts of coal country.

The water crisis peaked last year when service to many residents was shut off, members of the water board quit, and the attorney general opened a criminal investigation into allegations of mismanagement. The Kentucky House recently passed a resolution asking Gov. Matt Bevin (R) to declare a state of emergency and free up resources to fix the dilapidated system.

On Saturday, Bevin held a community forum with residents in Inez, the county seat, where he said he had not decided about the state of emergency but pledged to channel state and federal dollars toward the problem.

“We’ve done more in the last three months than was done in the previous three years,” Bevin said.

The water board’s new chairman, Jimmy Don Kerr, has taken a lead role in trying […]

More about water issues in Kentucky and coal country:

Coal Ash Pollution Threatens Groundwater At Western Kentucky Power Plant

Report: Kentucky Water Systems Serving 1.5 Million Violated Health Standards

Midwest flooding threatens the water safety in 1 million wells

Trump rolls back decades of Clean Water Act protections

Global coal industry using as much water as a billion people each year

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A crisis in Kentucky shows the high cost of clean drinking water
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A crisis in Kentucky shows the high cost of clean drinking water
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The water crisis peaked last year when service to many was shut off, water board members quit, and the attorney general opened a criminal investigation.
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The Washington Post
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