September 20, 2013

Rugged, rural West Virginia has thousands of families who live off the beaten path, far up remote hollows or atop picturesque ridges. It’s a charming life, close to nature, surrounded by deer and whippoorwills - but obtaining utilities can be a headache.

Currently, 39 families on the left branch of Trace Fork Road in Putnam County suffer from undrinkable, iron-tainted, gas-saturated, orange-colored, well water. Some blame the contamination on blasting by gas drillers two decades ago.

Residents must haul large tanks of clean water to their homes. Putnam reporter Lydia Nuzum told how one man created a half-mile pipeline to a spring on his brother’s farm to obtain a meager supply. Proper water lines were extended to the right branch of Trace Fork 13 years ago, but repeated appeals to county leaders have failed to help the left branch.

Putnam manager Brian Donat says “federal grants are drying up,” so the county can’t pay for such people-helping work. …

Conservatives in Washington don’t hesitate to pour giant amounts of taxpayer money into warmaking — such as the $1 trillion wasted on the unnecessary Iraq war — or into federal aid to billionaires. But they turn stingy when little folks need help. That’s shameful.

West Virginia’s members of Congress should follow the example of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd and demand more U.S. funding for work that improves life in the Mountain State. The cost of water line extensions is trivial, compared to other government outlays. About one minute of Pentagon spending probably would bring water to a thousand West Virginia families.

Safe drinking water is a fundamental necessity for life. Former Kanawha-Charleston Health Director Page Seekford once called it the chief hallmark of civilization. West Virginia is marred by this glaring lack in some regions. Leaders should get busy fixing the problem.

— Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette