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Sewer plant is in danger of closing soon, officials told

The Letcher County Water and Sewer District is faced with the possibility of having to close the Millstone Sewer System, and the solution to the problem remains a mystery.

At the December meeting of water and sewer district’s board of directors, a representative of an agency that helps local governments comply with state and federal utilities rules told the board that regulators have said they would not accept a plan the board hoped would allow the Millstone treatment plant to continue to operate.

Kimberly Padgett, of the Kentucky Rural Community Assistance Project, said the district’s plan to construct a leach field, or septic drain field, to accept effluent from the failing plant was rejected last month after a meeting with the Kentucky Division of Water. Padgett said another meeting was then held with the Fleming-Neon Water District to discuss the possibility of the city accepting and treating waste from Millstone, but Fleming-Neon said it is unable to receive or treat any additional waste until an upgrade of the city’s sewer treatment plant is completed.

To compound the problem, only four of the 27 customers connected to the Millstone system actually pay any sewer bill at all. Padgett said the Kentucky Public Service Commission suggested disconnecting the delinquent customers from water service until she reminded PSC offi cials that Millstone residents do not have county water service.

The district has been aware of problems with the Millstone treatment plant for quite a while, but has struggled to find a solution. The plant, which was built around 2001 as a relatively inexpensive way of dealing with the problem of “straight pipes” in the area, now has a problem with “outflow,” or raw sewage leaking into Millstone Creek.

Padgett said one solution suggested by the Division of Water (DOW) would cost about $300,000 and raise the customer rate for sewer service in Millstone to more than $100 a month. She added that since the cost is now is $20 a month and 23 of the 27 customers not paying even that, the division’s recommendation is not workable.

Padgett urged Water and Sewer District Superintendent Mark Lewis to set up meetings with the DOW and PSC. She said that all charged with trying to fix the problem must “think out of the box” because at present the only answer is to disconnect the delinquent customers.

“The only solution we have right now is to disconnect these people for nonpayment,” said Padgett. “And the DOW won’t like that.”

Lewis said the district has enough self-contained treatment units right now to hook up the paying customers to them in the event the district does disconnect the delinquent homes. He said the flow at present is so low that if the 23 homes are disconnected, the flow will be too low to manage the four remaining customers at any rate. Padgett said that at present the flow coming out of the plant is high in every measurable pollutant, including e-coli bacteria.

Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, who attended the meeting, suggested using holding tanks for the sewage and having them pumped until a better solution could be worked out. Padgett said the district would have to do something out of the normal pattern because all the solutions that had been suggested by DOW and PSC are not feasible. She said the district needs to meet with both agencies to show it is acting in good faith and doing everything it can do to alleviate the problem.

The Millstone plant was designed to collect sewage from 30 homes and pump it to a natural filter of peat. The effluent that comes out of the peat was treated with ultraviolet light before it was released into Millstone Creek.

In other business, Lewis said U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers has been in contact with Rep. Terry Kilgore, who represents southwest Virginia in Congress, to work out the arrangements to make it possible for the Wise County Water District to supply water to Letcher County customers in the Cumberland River area.

Lewis also said that Kentucky Power Co. has completed hooking electricity to the Pine Creek booster station and the district anticipates opening lines there as soon as bacteria testing is completed. District workers also fixed a main line water leak in the Camp Branch area that took 13 hours to complete.

Lewis also told the board that the district’s new online billing system is now in use with several customers having already established online accounts for paying their bills.

Bell Engineering representative Jamie Noe reported that the mainline segment of line to Shelby Fork in Deane is now in service and said the permit fee for crossing CSX lines to Schuler Branch was mailed on November 19. Bell Engineering is awaiting receipt of the executed permit from CSX before proceeding. The preconstruction meeting for Phase III of the Deane Project was held on December 10 and a notice to proceed was issued to both contractors, Ronnie Mullins and Sons, line contractor, and Welding Inc., the tank contractor.

Construction is compete on Phase II of the Premium Water Improvements Project and lines are in the ground and meters are set on the Bull and Elk Creek Project. The contactors are coordinating with Kentucky Power Co. to upgrade the service drop and the pump station will be installed as soon as that is completed.

The original contract for Phase I of the Pine, Pert, and Cram Creek Water Improvement Project is complete, and construction on the change order to extend lines farther into the Sunset Loop and G. Kincer Road areas is complete as well, with the exception of pressure testing and bacteria tests on the lines. The Kentucky Division of Water has approved the final plans for Phase II and Abandoned Mine Lands (AML)have completed its review as well.

Construction on Phase I of the Millstone Water Project is proceeding on schedule and the contractor is installing pressure reducing vaults and master meter vaults. An application for a study of the remainder of Millstone has been submitted to determine eligibility for AML funding.

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