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Labs show Lee County water is safe, residents still unsure

Posted at 8:06 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 20:15:12-04

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lab tests show the water in Lee County is safe to drink, but now local officials face an uphill battle to gain trust.

After about 10 people reported water issues and a viral post by a local representative, the city of Beattyville sought to find out if they had contaminated water last week.

Mayor Scott Jackson said repeated testing is done by Beattyville Water daily, they had not determined it to be a system-wide issue and shows the water is safe. But just to be sure, labs were taken from random locations across the county and sent to the Kentucky Division of Water.

Those results were shared on Tuesday afternoon. They show the contaminants in the water were at an EPA acceptable level and safe to drink.

"We need to let the experts find out what the problem is not create more problems getting people upset and worried over something that's man-made that can be made fixed," said Jackson last Thursday.

Local officials like himself and Lee County Judge-Executive Chuck Caudill Jr. told the community to trust them and continue to do so

"The only facts we have are that there are constant tests of this water system, and it says that there are no pathogens in this water," said Caudill.

"I drink the water right out of the tap at my house. Now, don't get me wrong, but I look at it If it's discolored, I'm not going to drink it. But if it's clear, I trust this."

However, Rep. Bill Wesley, (R- 91) is sticking with his statements that the water continues to be unsafe. He's visited the water plant and says trusted sources tell him there's been a problem there for years.

"I don't know how many tests that they've took. I know that there was a success on it, but I'm telling you from what is, from what I've been looking at, I wouldn't drink it," said Wesley.

Wesley plans to continue sharing the same message and told followers with water complaints to meet at the Beattyville Court Monday at 6:30 p.m. for a meeting.

"When you've got all these people complaining that there is an issue then it doesn't matter what those officials are saying," said Wesley.

Both Jackson and Caudill agree that there is an issue, but believe the issue is the local plant operating at an optimal level and with more resources could improve.

"We don't create an emergency when it's something that's manageable. And I'm perfectly willing to make any argument to say that we need more money because to keep a plant operating you know at optimum levels. I will gladly work with those in the city to make that happen," said Caudill.

But despite his reassurances, the area is now dealing with a problem of distrust. Many residents say they still will not drink the water.

Serena Faulkner lives in Beattyville with her husband and two sons who have down syndrome. She plans to continue boiling her water for them.

"Simply just because for precaution," said Faulkner. "To protect me and my sons and my household."

Faulkner says it will take a lot more reports for her to start trusting it.

Lee County has applied for a grant to improve its water operations. The Cleaner Water Program is funded by federal coronavirus relief dollars.

If you live in Lee County and are experiencing discolored water, local officials are asking you to save a sample for them to test. Do not drink the discolored water. The water department will come out and flush the system.

Gov. Andy Beshear's office has not responded to repeated requests for comment.