A water crisis in Kentucky shows the cost of clean drinking water
In Lovely, Ky., resident Heather Blevin’s parents hooked their property into the municipal supply after the well water here turned brown and started tasting salty. However, now hazards are emerging. According to The Washington Post, Blevins says the tap water now smells of bleach and occasionally will take on a urine-colored tinge. It also leaves her and 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,” Blevins said to The Washington Post, who keeps a constant eye on the county water district’s Facebook page to watch for pipe breaks and boil-water advisories.
Blevins says her water rates rocketed recently from $19 to almost $40 a month. According to the Post, she also 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.
According to the Post, 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 to declare a state of emergency and free up resources to fix the system.
On April 13, 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, according to the Post.
“We’ve done more in the last three months than was done in the previous three years,” Bevin said.
State Rep. Chris Harris, who advocated for the state of emergency, has warned that Martin County’s problems could soon be everyone’s.
“As the infrastructure deteriorates around the country, we are going to see more and more Martin Counties,” he said to the Post.
According to the Post, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s drinking-water system a D grade in its quadrennial report card. The network of more than 1 million miles of pipe includes many that are a century old and have a 75-year life expectancy. Across the country, 14% of treated water is lost through leaks, and in Martin County, that figure has at times reached more than 70%.
According to the Post, the American Water Works Association estimates that it will take $1 trillion to support demand over the next 25 years; in Martin County, repairs carry a price tag exceeding $10 million.