VIPER — While some in Perry County continue to wonder when they will be getting access to city water, Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said that while he expects to have water to many of the remaining areas in the next few years, some homes may have difficulty ever getting water.
Waterline extension has been a priority for many years for both the county and city governments and concerned citizens, though the layout of some areas of the county may make it cost prohibitive for everyone to ever be able to get public water. However, one local woman said that her road has water on all sides, but has still not made it to her street.
Chrystal Holland lives on Upper River Road in Viper where waterlines have been brought to most of the streets around her. Her home and those of her neighbors, however, have yet to be served.
“We have water on both ends of our road, but they didn’t bring it on to us from either end,” said Holland.
She said for herself and her neighbors, the lack of a clean, dependable water supply has been a huge problem for several years. She currently uses an underground well, but like many in the area dependent on wells, Holland’s water is unfit to drink or cook with, and she is forced to wash her laundry at her mother’s house so her clothes aren’t ruined.
“We can’t drink the water at our house,” she said. “I have to buy water every week to drink and to cook with.”
Judge Noble said that he hopes that around 90 percent of the county will have access to city water after the latest round of water projects is completed. This should include Upper River Road, although Holland said she has been told it may not happen.
The fear that Noble currently has, and according to Holland he has also expressed to her, is that officials will not be able to reach this 90 percent mark if the coal severance money that has been allocated for water projects does not come through due to the declining coal industry. Coal severance taxes are typically used to build infrastructure, like waterlines, in the counties where the coal is mined, and are collected based upon the amount of coal being mined. When coal production declines, so too will the amount of severance taxes.
“I went to the fiscal court meeting and I asked the judge when we would be getting water, and I was told the same thing that all my neighbors have been told. We were the next on the list and we would get water if they got coal severance money,” said Holland.
Noble claimed that despite the fear of losing out on coal severance, Perry County is in good shape to get most of their water projects completed.
“Right now we are lucky,” said Noble. “By the time I get the Abandoned Mines projects done, and if we are lucky enough to get this next round of coal severance, we will probably be at over 90 percent complete with water.”
Unfortunately, this will leave the final 10 percent in a difficult spot to get access to city water. As more money is being cut from the coal counties, the harder it will be to complete water projects, especially difficult projects like many of those could be.
“The problem we have got is that there are probably six percent of the people that live high on the hill, and there is probably only one home or two homes and it is maybe a mile up to them,” said Noble.
These homes can be costly to the county and the city to get water to, and often times the water bill will not cover the cost of getting the water to the home on a monthly basis.
“It is hard for them to spend two dollars and only get one,” said Noble. “They can’t spend $50 a month pumping water to two homes on the top of a mountain and only get 24.”
Noble said he is not unsympathetic to these people since often they are some of the ones who need water most.
“I know that is the people that really need it because they are at the top of the hill and it is hard for them to get water,” said Noble. “But the cost not just to run the lines for the county, but the cost for the city to pump that water to them is a very large cost.”
Despite these few homes that may be left waiting for water until more funding options can be found, several homes will be hooked up within the next two years using funds that have currently been allocated. Some of these homes will be in Docks Hollow, Lewis Hollow, Fort Branch, and Upper River Road. The county is also currently working on areas in Leatherwood.