Water issues frustrate community, puzzle Lee County officials

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jul 30, 2021

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — There's a water problem in Lee County and local officials are trying to get the bottom of why.

Brown, murky water and boil water advisories are just some of the issues residents say have plagued the town of Beattyville. They say problems only got bigger after March's historic flooding.

"I don't trust it one bit, absolutely not," said Rebekkah Early, owner of Red River Tattoo Company in Downtown Beattyville.

The water at her business was clear on Thursday but she said that didn't matter. She has experience with how quickly that can change.

"It's brown, and it smells. I mean, it was just, it was a situation where it was like. What's going on?" said Early when describing what she saw.

She's not the only one asking questions. Shelby Davis lives in Beattyville with her husband and nine-month-old baby.

"A lot of times it's cloudy. It has a weird smell," said Davis.

Davis has been boiling her son's bath water since May when he contracted E-coli. She told the Kentucky Department of Public Health it was after repeated boil water advisories.

"Once I realized that it wasn't from food or anything like that and they found out about the boil water advisories, they advised me that it was from contaminated water. And they advised me that I needed to be boiling, his bathwater and any kind of water he was to come in contact with," explained Davis.

Every time she comes home from work she starts boiling water so that it can cool in time. She's convinced the tap water in Beattyville made her son sick.

"It's just stressful because you shouldn't have to worry about something as simple as water. You have to have a clear you have to have to cook you have to have it today. And I don't want anybody else's child to go through what we had to, we were going to the doctor every two days," said Davis.

LEX 18 asked Beattyville Mayor Scott Jackson about the discolored water. Jackson said he didn't know why it was happening but that the Kentucky Division of Water is working to find out.

Scott says so far just 10 homes reported short bouts of discoloration to Beattyville water recently.

"I'd say it's been going on probably right after the flood," said Jackson. "We've had a little bit but it seems like we've had more."

Jackson says the problem pops up in different areas around the county at different times and is not widespread. However, a now-viral post by local representative Bill Wesley revealed a much bigger issue.

The post begged the community not to drink the water and got more than a thousand shares.

The comments were filled with people from all over town sharing photos, complaining about the water and issues they say have been going on for years.

Wesley has vowed to fight for the people affected and asked them to message the news, lawmakers, and his office

Early says she feels like someone is finally fighting for her.

"I know I'm not crazy. Now I know that this isn't a me issue," said Early. "It's becoming more known now. Like people are finally speaking up and saying something, because it's not just a random, you know, it's not two or three people here, you know, four or five people there the next month. Yeah, it's gotten way worse, but it's been a known issue for years.

A known issue that Mayor Jackson says is under control and being looked into. He says the system itself is old. He says he doesn't feel like people should get riled up just yet.

"This is a free country and you can say what you want but what I need the people to understand- let us talk to the experts because I'm sure Mr. Wesley has never worked at a water treatment plant, and I haven't," said Jackson.

He wants the public to wait until the report comes back from the state.

"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.

Jackson says repeated testing by Beattyville Water has not determined this to be a system-wide issue and shows the water is safe. Testing is done daily at the plant during every shift change. Samples are taken from random locations across the county every two weeks and sent to a lab for quality testing.

Jackson is not telling people not to drink the water at this time but suggests not drinking visibly discolored water.

"They should trust me. If they want to call me, come by and see me, I will do anything. But I have nothing to hide because I drink that water, my family drinks that water and my wife drinks that water," said Jackson.

Jackson expects the results to be in by early next week.

After having to close her shop because of boil-water advisories and lack of access to water, Early says she's not waiting around to find out.

"I'm tired of fighting the water company. I'm tired of fighting the mayor. I'm out of here," she said.

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.

A boil water advisory has not been issued at this time.

We reached out to Governor Beshear's office and Rep. Wesley but have not yet heard back.