water infrastructure

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David Meinschein’s teachers, staff and students have sacrificed a lot this year amid the staggering challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. 

He opens the door heading inside Ballad Memorial High School’s basketball gymnasium — known locally as the “Green Palace” for its school colors. The school’s emptiness is another reminder of COVID-19’s impact. But as assistant superintendent of his school district, he’s proud of the resilience his teachers, students and staff have shown. Meinschein thinks the pandemic could compare to another historic event. 

“I think in a decade from now, we will see that this will be similar to going through the Great Depression,” Meinschein said. “That stoicism and that mentality that came out of the Great Depression, I think you will see that in people as we move forward.”


Benny Becker I Ohio Valley ReSource

"You seen that one with the tombstone up there?" seven-year-old Timothy Easterling asks, looking toward the grass just uphill from his home. "That's my papaw."

Timothy’s grandfather Chet Blankenship died in 2016, at age 69. Blankenship lived on land he and his family have long owned at the end of a road atop Bradshaw Mountain in McDowell County, West Virginia. His hand-painted tombstone sits in the grassy patch above the family homes.

Blankenship’s daughter Melissa Easterling now lives in the house next door with her husband, Chauncy Easterling, who grew up on a nearby ridge. They live together with their son Timothy, and usually one or two foster children.


Alexandra Kanik I Ohio Valley ReSource

When 78-year-old Jim Casto looks at the towering floodwalls that line downtown Huntington, West Virginia, he sees a dark history of generations past. 

The longtime journalist and local historian is short in stature, yet tall in neighborhood tales. On Casto’s hand shines a solid gold ring, signifying his more than 40 years of reporting at the local paper. “It was a lot cheaper to give me a ring than to give me a pay raise,” he said with a chuckle. 

 

He walks up to the entrance of Harris Riverfront Park, one of 21 gate openings in the more than 3.5 miles of floodwalls covered in decades of charcoal-colored grime and dirt.


Red Bird Mission

Communities across the Ohio Valley are among an estimated 2 million Americans that do not have consistent access to clean drinking water and basic indoor plumbing, according to a report published Monday by two nonprofits, DigDeep and the US Water Alliance.

The report titled, “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,” synthesized data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, including its American Community Survey, to identify six areas of the country where access to clean water is lagging. That includes some communities in Appalachia, which the report lists among six “hot spots” for inadequate water access.

“From all the data sources we looked at, we know at least 2 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to running water or a working flush toilet,” said George McGraw, founder of DigDeep. “But we also know because of some errors with the census that the number is probably much higher than that.”