FRANKFORT, Ky. (WOWK / AP) – Residents of a Kentucky county plagued by years of drinking water issues are asking for a halt to rate increases as many low-income customers pay some of the highest water bills in the state.
A new report on the water crisis in Martin County says its 4,300 households cannot bear the cost burden of much-needed water system improvements. County residents continue to drink bottled water, and many homes have pressure issues or discolored water. About 44% of households have income below $25,000 per year.
“We hope that people will look at this and see that there are fundamental issues that have to be fixed and those projects will require additional funding and that can’t come from Martin County Residents.”Mary Cromer, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Inc.
Currently, Martin County residents have the 8th highest water bill in the state. The report from the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center released Monday says water is too expensive for nearly half the county’s residents, based on an Environmental Protection Agency standard.
Residents had their rates increased twice in 2018, adding about $14 a month to the average bill.
In the report, whether or not water is affordable is determined by each household’s “water burden,” or the percent of a household’s income spent on its water bill. The EPA considers a drinking water burden of 2.5% or above to be unaffordable. According to the report’s analysis, water is currently unaffordable for over 45.8% of Martin County households.
“They [Martin County Residents] are already choosing between paying their water bill and buying medicine or paying their water bill and paying other bills,” explained Cromer, with the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Inc.
Cromer added, “Unfortunately many residents have had to make choices, and it will come down to making the choice to turn off their water, if there is another rate increase.”
You can access the full 16-page report online.