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Proposed sewage plant at Blackey clears hurdle

A proposed $2.5 million sewage collection system and wastewater treatment plant to serve the communities of Blackey and Woodrock has passed an environmental assessment ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Corps announced this week from its Nashville District headquarters.

The announcement means the Corps intends to keep its promise to fund nearly half of the project, which was first proposed by the Letcher County Water and Sewer District in 2003.

The Corps says the proposed project would serve about 150 homes and eliminate discharges from poorly-functioning septic tank systems and straight pipes that now contaminate the source of raw water for Blackey Water Treatment Plant. The intake for the water plant, which treats water that is sold to 856 homes and businesses between the City of Blackey and the community of Little Colley near Sandlick, is located just below the confluence of Rockhouse Creek and the North Fork of the Kentucky River.

“Existing sewage disposal creates both public health risks and degrades water quality of the North Fork of the Kentucky River and Rockhouse Creek,” says a notice released by the Corps. “Rockhouse Creek is currently listed by the state of Kentucky as not fully meeting designated stream uses (primary contact recreation and aquatic life) because of pathogen levels. The proposed project would eliminate many sources of pathogens to the river and be a positive step toward improving water quality in the North Fork of the Kentucky River basin.”

The Corps said it had two choices in the matter – “no action” and “proposed action.”

“The ‘no action’ alternative would involve denying funding and continuing the existing sewage treatment systems,” said the Corps. “This is not recommended since it would result in continued degradation of public health and water quality in the area. Environmental affects associated with the proposed alternative are minor and temporary in duration. Seven stream crossings would be done by directional boring and would have minimal impact on streams.”

Greg Pridemore, director of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, said the announcement by the Corps of Engineers puts the district “a step closer” to building the sewage treatment plant. Pridemore cautioned that there “is still a lot of ground to cover,” however, including purchasing the property on which the proposed plant will be located.

“Hopefully we can get that done and try to get it to bid in the next three to four months,” Pridemore said Monday night.

The Corps said the environmental assessment was coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

A copy of the assessment is available for public review at the Letcher County Water and Sewer District Office at 178 Main Street, Suite 4, in Whitesburg. Copies are also available by contacting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, Project Planning Branch, P.O. Box 1070 (PM-P), Nashville, Tenn., 37202-1070.

The public is invited to review the assessment and make comments about it between now and December 21 by contacting the Corps at the address listed above, or by contacting Tim Higgs, environmental engineer, at (615)736-7863. Requests or comments may also be e-mailed to timothy.a.higgs@usace.army.mil.

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