Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C. -- “According to news reports, the Kentucky Public Services Commission (PSC) has instituted a permanent rate increase for customers of the Martin County Water District and ordered the utility to contract with an outside party for management.
“One-third of residents are below the poverty line, and they shouldn’t be left to bear the costs of fixing a system that they didn’t break for water they still can’t drink. Years of corruption, disinvestment, mismanagement and toxic pollution have plagued the community, and Martin County’s elected officials have failed to ensure that the county has safe, affordable drinking water.
“While residents have many reasons to be wary of the water district’s past and current management, privatization of the system should not be seen as a cure-all. In fact, in 2002, the Martin County Water District contracted with American Water, which left after two years because the county wasn’t able to pay the management fees.
“Privatization comes with risks: higher rates, less transparency, and accountability to shareholders, not community members. On average, private water systems charge ratepayers 59 percent more than their public counterparts. What’s more, in our recent water shutoff survey, private providers overwhelmingly refused to disclose how many of their customers have been shut off for nonpayment.
“The Martin County Water District needs to prioritize in-house expertise. The current general manager is a volunteer. The district needs resources to offer a competitive compensation package to attract a qualified manager.”
“We need to adequately fund our public water systems nationwide. Federal funding to maintain and upgrade our water infrastructure has dropped by 74 percent in real dollars since peaking in 1977. Unless we reverse this trend, more and more communities will lose access to safe and affordable drinking water.”
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]