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In Appalachia, As Mining Companies Close, Water Systems Fail

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Jessica Lilly
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Elkhorn Public Servcie Company building housed the company that provided water to residents. It's no longer in use.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we discuss one part of coal's legacy: as mining companies have closed, the water companies they built and helped maintain have largely been neglected. Today, residents are struggling with crumbling water infrastructure that hasn’t been updated for, sometimes, 100 years. 

We'll take a look at how our region's declining coal economy has contributed to the lack of access to clean water for so many in the coalfields. 

But not everyone has given up hope that better times lie ahead for coal country. Listen to hear what residents are doing to try to bring help to their communities.

This show originally aired about a year ago.  Unfortunately, not much has changed. The communities we visited last winter in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky still struggle with crumbling water systems and frequent outages. But we’ll keep following their struggle and asking for answers.

Speaking of questions and answers, we wanted to let you know about a new series our colleagues at West Virginia Public Broadcasting have launched, called “I’d Like to Know”. For those of you in West Virginia, send a short video with a question you have for state lawmakers. These questions might air on on our TV program The Legislature Today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqIdFl9DznI

And, if you’re not from West Virginia, we’d like to hear your questions too. Send us an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org and let us know what questions you think we should be asking lawmakers in Appalachia.

This episode was produced with the help of  WMMT in Whitesburg Kentucky and the Ohio Valley ReSource. Special thanks to David Foster and the West Virginia Rural Water Association. Music in today’s show was provided by Lobo Loco, Montana Skies, and Doctor Turtle. Suzanne Higgins edited our show this week. Patrick Stephens is our audio mixer. Jesse Wright is our executive producer. 

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Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.