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Coal Run neighborhood in Zanesville, Ohio, USA

50 year-long battle to reclaim right to clean water and sanitation in Ohio; read about the successful achievement of a black community (despite the shamefully long time it took..)


For 48 years residents of the Coal Run neighborhood of Zanesville, Ohio - a former coal-mining center and a primarily black community of about 25 homes - fought tirelessly to get water service from the city. In 1956, the city built a water main that ended just short of the neighborhood, a water main from which the county Water Authority built new water lines and expanded service to surrounding areas. In 1999, a lifelong resident of Coal Run, who discovered that her white neighbors’ request for a water hookup had been approved began arguing for equal rights - attending city council meetings, lobbying government officials, and talking to other black neighbors [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Coal Run neighborhood in Zanesville, Ohio, USA
Country:translation missing: en.countries.united_states_of_america
State or province:Ohio
Location of conflict:Zanesville
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:67
Start of the conflict:01/01/1956
End of the conflict:10/07/2008
Relevant government actors:City of Zanesville, Muskingum County, East Muskingum Water Authority, U.S. District Court of Ohio
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ohio Civil Rights Commission
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsLack of clean water, not getting enough drinking water
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Yes, the community was able to work with a third party organization (Ohio Civil Rights Commission) and obtain the water access that was available to all of their white neighbors. They also won a discrimination suit that provided them with compensation for the burdens they had endured, which allowed each defendant to receive between $15,000 and $30,000 in compensation. In 2008, the residents of Coal Run were given access to public water.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Making Water a Matter of Race - Time Magazine, Claire Suddath, July 14, 2008
[click to view]

[2] Zanesville's black residents' fight for clean water, bittersweet - The Columbus Dispatch, Eric Lyttle, February 16, 2014
[click to view]

[3] Racial Discrimination in Ohio: Neighborhood Denied Water Service - July 11, 2008, Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[click to view]

Kennedy v City of Zanesville
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video about the case
[click to view]

Other documents

Coal Run neighborhood family cistern
[click to view]

Zanesville Water Map Map showing Zanesville water line and where it stops relative to the Coal Run neighborhood
[click to view]

Old outhouse used by some families To help conserve water in the house and avoid having to carry water into homes for use in toilets, some families used outhouses.
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan.
Meta information
Contributor:Bernadette Grafton and Paul Mohai, [email protected] and [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update22/08/2016
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