Washington, D.C. and Inez, Ky. – In advance of a hearing of the Kentucky Public Services Commission this week on the Martin County Water District's (MCWD) failures to provide adequate, safe water to its customers, today national advocacy group Food & Water Watch joined with the Concerned Citizens of Martin County to ask Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear to investigate the MCWD because of its “gross financial mismanagement and alleged misuse of public funds”. The community has been plagued by toxic water contamination, leaks, service problems, and financial shortfalls that have led to an emergency rate increase.
“An investigation by the Attorney General is exactly what Martin County needs,” said Nina McCoy of Martin County Concerned Citizens. “We are afraid of wasting even more money on this failing system and never fixing the root of the problem.”
The letter to Attorney General Beshear cites three main issues that require investigation from the attorney general’s office. First is the issue of $3 million dollars that has gone missing from the Coal Severance Fund. In 2003, the former water district chairman admitted that financial records had gone missing, and in 2014, six people pleaded guilty to stealing $31,000 from the water district.
“We can’t fix the water system until we can address the underlying questions regarding possible financial misconduct,” said Mary Cromer, an attorney for Martin County Concerned Citizens with the Appalachian Law Center. “The attorney general has the resources to investigate this problem and the citizens of the county deserve action as their rates climb ever higher for fundamentally poor water service.”
The letter also cites the need to investigate lax employee spending policies and the possibility of certain officials and private entities receiving free water from the system. The groups also echo the community’s concerns that this mismanagement has hampered action to address the water crisis, writing, “Your investigation can help redress previous wrongs and clear up any misgivings from state officials to help the county move forward and address its water problems.”
“Attorney General Beshear can be a force for justice in the longstanding problems with Martin County’s water,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “His office can hopefully answer some of these financial questions about the system’s operations so that funding is allocated to serving the needs of all the community’s citizens, not just its richest.”
The letter can be viewed here.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]