|Tyler Childers performed at the MoonTower Music Festival|
in Lexington (Lexington Herald-Leader photo: Rich Copley)
"The Martin County Water District became the most prominent example of water reliability and quality problems in Eastern Kentucky after an outage in January left thousands of residents without running water for days," Will Wright reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Many of the district’s customers continue to report days-long water outages that force some families to collect rainwater for bathing, and some post videos on social media of brown and discolored water flowing out their taps."
Wright and two West Virginia journalists brought Martin County's water woes to light earlier this month in a package based on a six-month investigation of the lack of reliable, clean drinking water in Eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. The package triggered immediate changes: some state and local officials called for increased regulation and accountability of water districts, and the Martin County Water District was approved for almost $5 million in grants to begin improvements.
Childers' gesture brought some welcome light to the problem as well; since hearing about his visit, other counties in Eastern Kentucky have offered to bring residents even more water. Jimmy Don Kerr, chairman of the Martin County water board, was grateful for the help. "He’s one of us," Kerr told Wright. "For him to be that concerned about it and actually do something — actually put an action to it — is a big deal."
UPDATE, Dec. 24: Childers' gift inspired his fans to donate even more, so many that Kerr "said there’s no telling how much will come," Wright reports. "In addition to Childers’ 500 cases handed out at the Inez Community Center Saturday, there are at least another 30 pallets of water on the way, said Ian Thornton, Childers’ manager. That’s the equivalent of 36,000 bottles of water."