‘You pray for rain:’ How one Eastern Kentucky family copes with unreliable water service.
A water outage in Leslie County and parts of Clay County has left about 250 customers without water and forced at least one school closure.
The cause of the outage is still unclear, but it is affecting customers in the Jacks Creek area near the Leslie-Clay County line, said L.J. Turner, general manager of the Hyden-Leslie County Water District. Repairs are expected to take about four to five hours.
Tim Crawford, development director of Red Bird Christian School, said classes were canceled Friday because of the outage. The school has been forced to cancel classes due to water outages before, Crawford said.
“Any water utility has problems from time to time, especially these rural utilities,” Crawford said. “We’re kind of on the end of the line, too. With this mountainous terrain, it makes delivering water service difficult.”
The Hyden-Leslie County Water District serves about 3,600 homes and businesses in Leslie, Clay and Perry counties. Like many water utilities in Eastern Kentucky, the district has a relatively high rate of water loss, at 35 percent, according to the district’s latest annual report. That means one out of every three gallons of water it treats never makes it to customers because of leaky lines.
Water outages have forced school closures elsewhere in Eastern Kentucky in the past year, including in Martin County and Harlan County, where the superintendent wrote to the county’s judge-executive saying the outages were “a serious interruption of the educational process and a true safety and health hazard for all customers, not just our school building, served by the water district.”
Crawford said water quality and access issues affect many people in the area served by Red Bird, which hosts a school and a mission that organizes community outreach programs.
About three years ago, the mission installed a water kiosk in its community store to serve people who lack clean, reliable water service, including people who rely on wells that easily run dry, he said.
For one quarter, residents can buy five gallons of water from the kiosk.
“Last year we had 10,000 gallons of water for folks that don’t have quality water to drink,” Crawford said. “The water issue is great for a lot of people we serve here.”
The mission has also used funding from United Methodist Church and the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program — an initiative founded in 1997 to “restore the natural beauty” of Eastern Kentucky — to repair about 26 failing septic tanks that leaked human waste into streams and rivers.
“We’re trying to help clean up our streams and rivers,” Crawford said.