2016-02-03 / Front Page

County is asked to abandon lake as water source

Entrepreneur says his firm can make mine water safe to drink
By WILLIAM FARLEY

The Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District were asked to participate in a different way to provide water for Letcher County residents at the board’s regular monthly meeting.

Board member Fred Webb introduced David Owen, co-founder and board member of EverBlue Water Technologies, who said his company is confident that its technology can treat water from abandoned coal mines in a manner that removes toxins that leach into ground water and streams, making the water safe for human consumption.

Owen asked the board for a nonbinding letter of intent that can be presented to the Kentucky Department of Water, which he said will be necessary for the company to proceed. He said that once the initial letter is in place, he would be able to provide more details about the process after an initial survey is conducted. Owen said that EverBlue, corporation formed in Arkansas in 2014, has worked in the oil fields in Texas and in places where hydraulic fracking has polluted ground water. He said his technology has worked well in those areas.

Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward was at the meeting and expressed interested in the process. Owen said that EverBlue would build a water treatment plant in Letcher County and lay pipe to connect with the district’s pipes. He said the cost to the county would be about the same as it is currently paying for water and that the initial construction will be done at EverBlue’s expense.

Owen did not answer an inquiry from The Mountain Eagle asking why the county water and sewer district board should abandon its present water source at Carr Creek Lake for the EverBlue method if the latter doesn’t save money for ratepayers.

At last week’s meeting, Water and Sewer Board Chairman Bernard Watts told Owen that with only a bare quorum of three members at the meeting, he was not comfortable in committing the board to the letter, and asked for a month to learn more about EverBlue. Owen said the letter of intent would not bind the district in any way and Judge Ward asked if EverBlue would proceed to begin testing water in the county if the board did approve the letter. Owen said the company would and the testing would be done at its own expense. However, the board declined to offer a motion until the February meeting.

Owen said he and other EverBlue officers will be meeting with Environmental Protection Agency offi- cials to discuss their process and added that they have several other projects underway in Kentucky.

The original January meeting was cancelled due to the weather and last week’s called meeting was held in the annex below the district offices, where special fiscal court meetings are often held. Alan Bowman of Bell Engineering reported that a preconstruction meeting for the second Knott County Interconnect was held at district offices on January 19, and representatives of project contractor Jones Contracting, Abandoned Mine Lands (AML), Bell Engineering and the district were all in attendance. The contract time for the project began on February 1, and Jones Contracting has all the necessary liability insurance and bonds to begin the work.

Board members also met with the Wise County Public Service Authority on January 13 to discuss the rates proposed by the Wise County District to supply water for the Cumberland River Area. The district expressed concerns over the initial price and both parties agreed that the Letcher County District should present a counteroffer for Wise County to consider. A separate meeting has been scheduled with Harlan County Judge/Executive Dan Mosley to discuss the option of bringing water from Harlan County.

Phase II of the Red Star, Ulvah, Hallie, and Turkey Creek Water Improvements Project has been broken into phases and approved by AML. A Memorandum of Agreement is being prepared for execution. An request to extend water to an additional 40 homes for the Bull Creek Phase II project has been approved by AML as well. Other water and sewer project await studies, application approvals, or funding approval before proceeding.

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