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Only In Ohio: Black Town Denied Running Water For 50+ Years

October 22, 2008

Can you believe it?  What the heck is this mess?

No running water?


They did, after 50+ years, get running water…when the white people moved in.


When he built his house in the early 1980s, Kennedy says, his water request was denied. He can’t even remember the number of times he asked the city’s service director for help, only to have nothing happen. Then a house went up next door. A white family moved in, and one day Kennedy saw his new neighbors watering their lawn. “They’d be out there with a hot tub out on the porch,” he says, “and I was still going down the road [to the local water treatment plant] with a pickup truck every day.” Like many Zanesville area residents, he couldn’t drill a well because the surrounding coal mines have contaminated the water, rendering it undrinkable.

To this day, Jerry Kennedy only does laundry when it rains. For the first 54 years of his life, he lived without running water, and rainstorms were the only way he could collect enough water to wash his clothes. But Kennedy isn’t from some far-off rural outpost. He was born and raised in the Coal Run neighborhood of Zanesville, Ohio — a former coal-mining center of 25,000 in the eastern part of the state — just a few hundred feet from a municipal water line. Kennedy, now 58, is black. His neighbors, who did not have running water for more than 50 years, are also black. On July 10, the U.S. District Court of Ohio awarded them almost $10.9 million, ruling that they had been denied access to public water because of their race.


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