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Kentucky

‘Not just Martin County.’ Eastern KY community hosts UN World Water Day to push for change.

 
 

As water issues continue in Martin County, the United Nations chose the Eastern Kentucky community to be a host of its World Water Day.

The event, originally scheduled for March 22, was scaled back and postponed to Saturday. Martin County Water Crisis activist BarbiAnn Maynard and Newark Water Coalition co-founder Anthony Diaz united to continue their mission of providing clean water globally.

Together, Maynard, Diaz and other water warriors hope to start a national movement.

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“It’s not just Martin County. It’s Newark, New Jersey; Aliquippa, Pennsylvania; Denmark, South Carolina,” Maynard said. “It’s lots of little cities all around the United States. What people don’t know is we’re really working on a major movement to make a difference nationally.”

Diaz, who drove 10 hours, said even in a time when the country is divided, we can join together to fight for access to clean water.

“Black and brown communities always get the short end of the stick,” he said. “It just happens. Here we are in a white community in rural Kentucky and they are also getting the short end of the stick. It’s not what separates us, it’s definitely what joins us up. If you can organize around water, you can organize around any issue.”

Anthony Diaz, of Newark, New Jersey poses for a portrait in Inez during World Water Day hosted in Inez, Ky., Saturday, October 17, 2020. Water issues continue in Martin County as the United Nations chose the Eastern Kentucky community to be a host of its World Water Day, originally scheduled for March 22. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

Maynard has been fighting for clean water for 20 years. She first was told she was crazy, complaining about the water to the district. Customers for years have complained about the poor water quality, frequent outages and high bills.

On Sept. 28, 12 miles of water lines started to be replaced with more than $8.5 million in grant funding.

They start near Maynard’s home. She will be one of the first to have water with the new water lines. She questioned why her home first.

“I think they’re thinking if I get clean water, I’ll go away, but I’m not just fighting for me,” she said. “I’m fighting for everyone here in Martin County. I’m fighting for Newark, New Jersey. I’m fighting for everybody around. We’re all important.”

Maynard doesn’t think she will see clean water in Martin County in her lifetime. Even though she has avoided using the water, she still had to use it to bathe, for example. The damage is already done, she said.

Barbie Ann Maynard, of Martin County, poses for a portrait in Inez during World Water Day hosted in Inez, Ky., Saturday, October 17, 2020. Water issues continue in Martin County as the United Nations chose the Eastern Kentucky community to be a host of its World Water Day, originally scheduled for March 22. Maynard said she has been fighting for Martin county to have clean water for 20 years. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

“I’m not fighting for me anymore,” Maynard said. “I’m fighting for these little kids that go to recess and PE and they come in and go to the water fountain. To me, that’s lambs being led to slaughters. I’m fighting for them now.”

Diaz is optimistic he will see clean water in Newark. The city has high amounts of lead in its drinking water. His goal is to win and train a bench, he said, to solve the problem for his and future generations. Every family helped is a win for him.

Diaz became interested in water issues two years ago and now has an appreciation of nature. He pointed to the mountains and clear blue skies in Eastern Kentucky, something he doesn’t see in Newark.

“I recognize if we’re not taking care of this planet, then what are we doing,” Diaz said. “If you can’t drink, if you can’t bathe, if you can’t cook, then how do you live life, and then we allow these situations to become normalized.”

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