MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. — Due to recent freezing temperatures, several counties encountered water issues, and many residents went days without water. Martin County was among those counties.
The water issues Martin County has dealt with have been an ongoing ordeal for decades.
"People just want to know what’s going on, being able to understand what’s happening with our system and when water’s coming back on,” said Madison Mooney, community engagement coordinator and researcher with Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network. “People just want their water to work.”
Some of those issues include being out of compliance on disinfection products until 2018, experiencing 68% water loss in the last year and problems with the water pumps at Tug Fork River, said Nina McCoy, who has been an advocate for this cause since 2000.
McCoy is a “Martin County Concerned Citizens” chairperson. The organization was formed in 2017 to build transparency and give residents a voice.
“The same problems have been occurring throughout all of these investigations, and most of the money that has been allotted to this county has gone to adding more customers instead of upgrading the system that we have in order to service the customers that we already had," McCoy said.
Even with all the issues McCoy listed, according to a water affordability study by the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center (ACLC), it costs Martin County residents almost $70 a month for 4,000 gallons. It is the second-highest water bill in the center’s dataset.
"Systems need more money than they're already getting in order to make the improvements and be doing not just maintenance but rebuilding the dilapidated lines," said Mary Cromer of the ACLC. "They can't do that without the revenues from the rates, and then the people are being asked to pay for water that is sometimes of poor quality and then sometimes is just not even flowing."
"It's just a really difficult problem on all sides."
Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Ky., tweeted that his budget would allot $12 million to Martin County from the “Better Kentucky Cleaner Water" program. It now rests in the hands of the legislature to approve it.
Danielle Kirk, who lives in Martin County and is with the political nonprofit “Hood to the Holler”, said she encourages Martin County residents to send emails and call their state representative and senator. She added she thinks it’s important to put pressure on elected officials to deal with county's issues.