To the list of shameful issues facing the residents of Central Appalachia over the last 50 years, today we add unsafe, expensive drinking water from certain public water districts in rural communities.
Based on a series of articles published in the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Charleston Gazette-Mail, several of those districts are in East Kentucky.
In fact, Attorney General Andy Beshear has called for the Martin County Water District to be placed under outside control, likely through state receivership.
Adding to the woes of the troubled districts is the loss of revenue caused by the leaking of treated water before it reaches customers.
For example, the Rattlesnake Ridge Water District in Carter County loses more than 60 percent of its water through leaky lines, one of the highest rates in the state.
However, the district was not identified as having excessive occurrences of discolored water, boil-water advisories or lengthy service outages.
Water loss is attributed to inadequate maintenance of the pipes and pumps which move treated water.
The newspaper series included incredible stories of families going without water for weeks at a time and being forced to collect rainwater, going without laundry or bathing, buying bottled water for drinking and cooking, and being unable to flush toilets.
The attorney general also called for investigations of the management of the water districts with persistent problems with water quality, finances and service interruptions.
The series described conditions in some water districts as comparable to those faced by persons living in impoverished, underdeveloped nations.
Meanwhile, water rates continue to go higher, some through exceptions granted by the Public Service Commission under emergency conditions.
We believe the PSC needs more legal authority and funding to effectively oversee water districts, much like the Department of Education does with underperforming school districts.
A key element in fixing the water districts will be federal grant dollars. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Hal Rogers must go after the billions of dollars in the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) fund.
In our opinion, Kentucky should follow California’s example by looking upon safe, clean, affordable and accessible water as a basic human right.