Troubled Waters: A Coalfield County Loses Trust In Water And Government
By Benny Becker

On any given day in Martin County, Kentucky, the water system loses more water to leaks than it delivers to paying customers through their faucets. The water system is under a state investigation for the third time since 2002. Customers complain of frequent service interruptions and discolored water, and their bills come with a notice that drinking the water could increase the risk of cancer.

This is the state of infrastructure in a county that’s mined many millions of dollars worth of coal since the early 1900s, providing the power required for America’s industries and modern comforts. As with many coalfield communities, all the profit and advances the area’s laborers and natural resources made possible haven’t left much evidence of improvement in the local economy and infrastructure.

Opening a tap is an exercise in trust which most of us take for granted. But in Martin County it’s just one more reason for residents to feel let down by the powers that be; one more chapter in the long story of how the people have lost faith in their government.

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