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Clean water coming to rural parts of Letcher County

By: Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg Email

SHELBY FORK, Ky. (WYMT) - People in one area of Letcher County will soon have access to clean water.

The Letcher fiscal court approved a $150,000 project that includes the installation of county water lines in the Shelby Fork and Mill Creek communities.

Shelby Fork is where Chris Yonts and his family live. We have reported on Yonts several times in the past because of his battle with coal companies and state officials for his well water being unusable due to high concentrations of lead and arsenic.

Yonts, along with his wife and two children, have decided to move to nearby Knott County until the water situation is resolved.

"When you have to take your kids over to another county just to bathe, that is really frustrating," Yonts said Monday as he was carrying furniture from his house. "As well as washing clothes...it's just....the water is unusable. I don't want my family to live like this and I don't either."

Of the three dozen people living in Shelby Fork, Yonts is the only one to decide to move because of the water situation.

"I don't know what all the rest of the neighbors are doing, but I can only look out for myself and my family," he said.

The new water lines will be funded by coal severance money through House Bill 265.

"The county ranked (this project) number one as far as priorities to do in the county," said Mark Lewis, the general manager of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District.

That is a big deal for the people of Shelby Fork and adjoining Mill Creek. Many of them have been riddled with water problems for years.

"I'm sure that based on the condition they said their wells were in, it's a big ordeal," Lewis said. "Of course anybody throughout the county without water is grateful to get water."

Lewis said his district is one of the fastest growing in Kentucky.

"That's the goal, is to try and get water to every resident in the county," he said. "They've achieved a lot in the last few years. I think they said we're nearing our one millionth linear foot of pipe in the ground. We're averaging two thousand feet per week. So we've got a lot of projects going on."

The Mill Creek/Shelby Fork project will be placed up for bidding on November 3rd. It should be completed before summer 2013.

That day cannot come soon enough for Chris Yonts.

"Our county is doing the best they can," Yonts said. "They've offered us water, so that's a start."

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