Op-Ed

Let’s get real about water problems in Martin County

Volunteers stacked donated water for Martin County residents, many of whom are afraid to drink the water from their taps.
Volunteers stacked donated water for Martin County residents, many of whom are afraid to drink the water from their taps.

Martin County used to have water. It fell from the sky and rippled down in clear streams to the Tug, or gathered in aquifers, where it lay in repose to be brought up by bucket or by cranking an old pump and put in a tub for Saturday night.

Say what you will about Central Appalachia, it rains enough here. We, as we say, come in a hair of being a rainforest.

This paper spent a few thousand words blaming the board of a Water District for the fact that nowadays Martin County doesn’t have enough water to wash its face and what they do get is about the color of Orange Crush.

The paper and the Public Service Commission both seem to think that the Water District could simply raise people’s water bills so that they are about equal to their monthly draw checks or their income from fast-food jobs and use that money to get city water that tastes like chlorine.

The water that now gets into the ground comes mainly from leaking pipes. More than half of Martin County’s pipe water is lost. The expense of installing, replacing, or repairing leaky water lines in the mountains is enormous. So who should pay for it?

The paper spake not a word about the ultimate cause of Martin County being dryer than the Sahara. Whose fault is all that?

The fact is that the good people of Martin County traded their water for 40 years of surface mining, with its daily assault on the Earth, with its dynamite, with its filling of natural watersheds with what is rightly called “spoil,” with its constant release of heavy metals into the water supply and with its unrestricted destruction of the underground water supply.

Money for Martin County’s water is now invested in top-notch basketball facilities in Lexington, and in large political donations to enemies of the Environmental Protection Agency, which tried to protect the county from thirst and dirty faces. But as stalwart Republicans, this is apparently what Martin County wanted. They voted overwhelmingly for the enemies of their drinking and washing water.

It was a lot easier to take a bath from a tub than to take one from a plastic bottle of water generously supplied by a singer. We know now that water bottled in plastic may taste better than mine runoff, but is about as dangerous in the long run.

President Barack Obama slowed the growth of surface mining and became the arch-enemy of the very people he was trying to protect. They preferred, and still do, no doubt, a guy from New York City whose tap water flows down from the Adirondack Mountains and wins taste tests, and who in his heart doesn’t give a rat’s rear for the people of Martin County.

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.net.

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