Dr. Joanna Bailey remembers crowding around the kitchen table with her family, carefully sticking stamps on the corners of her neighbors’ monthly water bills. Her dad managed water service in Glover, an old coal town along the Guyandotte River in Wyoming County.
When someone didn’t pay the bill, Bailey’s father would quietly let it slide, knowing that, without a shut-off valve, the water would keep flowing anyway.
One day, a woman mailed in a check for a dollar and some cents, along with a letter explaining that she’d deducted everything that she had to buy that month because she couldn’t use the discolored water that came out of her tap.
“Part of what she included on the list of things that she had to buy, and I quote — that I remember from 6 years old — ‘a Mountain Dew, to brush my teeth,’” Bailey said.
Bailey now works as a family doctor in two Southern West Virginia counties. More than 25 years later, she still sees distrust of the water as a near-daily part of her practice…