Days without water are a way of life in Southern West Virginia
HD Media GARY, W.Va. – Each morning Tina Coleman turns her faucet, she waits to see what color the water will be when, or if, it flows out.
Even on good days, when the water flows mostly clear, it can leave anything it touches gray.
That’s on top of the $150 she spends on her water and sewage bill each month – "that much money for water we can’t drink."
As U.S. Steel shrank its operations and paid less in taxes, the city got less money to pay its bills.
(Coal operators) were not interested in, for the most part, planning," said Amy Swann, director of the West Virginia arm of the National Rural Water Association.
"We’ve put money in there, a lot of it, and still people cannot rely on their service."
But for residents in some surrounding areas, places where Tina Coleman might considering moving, 50 days in five years is next to nothing.
In O’Toole, a small community about 15 miles from Gary, residents served by the town’s water system have been under a continued boil-water notice since May of 2002 – more than 16 years.
At least nine community water systems in West Virginia have been under boil-water advisories for longer than five years, according to the state, and all operate in Southern West Virginia: four in Wyoming County, two in Mercer County, two in McDowell County and one in Fayette County.
"That’s what you do – the water doesn’t stop running, so you can’t either … You work long hours, and you have to be on top of it at all times – really, you’re responsible for people’s health, their safety, too," Morgan said.