MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. – Citizens attended a public informational meeting held at the Roy F. Collier Community Center in Inez, Monday evening to discuss ongoing water problems faced by Martin County residents.
The meeting was scheduled by Senate Democratic Floor Leader, Ray S. Jones II, D- Pikeville and all citizens were encouraged to attend. Other officials at the meeting included representatives from the Division of Water, the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Environment and Energy Cabinet, the Rural Water Association, the Martin County Fiscal Court, Martin County Judge Executive Kelly Callaham and the Martin County Water District.
In late February, a video of discolored water flowing from a faucet into a sink was shared on social media by a Martin County resident. The video caught the attention of environmentalist, Erin Brockovich. Brockovick shared the video and made the following statement, “Look, I understand distribution systems are subject to disruption… I get that, occasionally mechanics systems break down. It’s as much about how a utility deals with the problems and how they communicate to their customers. This is not okay! This is not safe drinking water!”
On April 11, the PSC launched the third investigation of the Martin County Water District since 2002. The order issued by the PSC referenced the PSC’s ongoing concerns and involvement with the Martin County Water District. The order states, “In numerous inspections and investigations at Martin County Water District since the late 1990s, the PSC has found lingering problems of significantly high water loss, lack of performance of routine maintenance and testing, and failure to follow acceptable management practices.”
The order describes the PSC’s initial involvement with Martin Water District stating, “Following a utility inspection report issued by Commission Staff on April 5, 2002, that described the Martin District ‘in general state of disrepair,’ the Commission opened Case No. 2002-00116 to investigate Martin District’s operating capacity.”
The order continues explaining that in October of 2003, the PSC entered into a Settlement Agreement with Martin Water District which required the district to fulfill 43 actions as well as a timeline in which the district was to carry out the 43 actions identified.
In the order, the PSC explains that the case was reopened again in 2006 after the Martin County Water District failed to file required reports for 2004 and 2005. The order states, “Although Martin District made some progress on the Settlement’s action items, the progress was slow and unsteady.” As a result of the 2006 investigation, the Martin Water District was ordered in 2008 to “take the actions recommended in the audit and to file annual status reports until all the required actions are completed.”
The order continues stating, “While Martin District has since addressed many of the action items, serious deficiencies remain, and the following categories of actions required by the April 2, 2008 order are still incomplete.”
As of April 2014, the order states that Martin County had failed to address 37 recommended steps identified in the 2008 order.
In the fall of 2015, the order explains that the PSC held a meeting with representatives at the Martin District to determine additional progress toward the completion of recommended action steps. The order states, “As a result of that meeting, Commission Staff determined that 11 additional recommendation steps had been completed, thereby leaving 28 recommendation steps ongoing.”
The order lists a number of problems that the Martin County Water District currently faces. One major problem is a loss of water. The order states, “Martin County Water loss rate has been in excess of 60 percent in recent years, which is four times what is normally permitted in Kentucky regulations.”
The order cited in this article can be found by visiting psc.ky.gov. The case number for the current investigation is 2016-00142.
(Courtney Harrison is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)